Judging the Judge: What Antonin Scalia’s Death Means to the People I Love


I am not sad Antonin Scalia is dead.

Wow! It feels so good to say that out loud!

Come on. Admit it. You probably feel the same way.

I know. I know. Everywhere you turn, people are going out of their way to talk about the ramifications of the 79-year-old Supreme Court Justice’s death without passing judgement on him.

“Let’s keep it classy,” they say.

Oh. Stop it.

In his 30 years on the bench, Scalia hurt an awful lot of people. And I mean real, live people – not ideological constructs, not hypotheticals – but moms, dads, husbands, wives, daughters, and sons.

The aggregate amount of misery in the world was drastically increased by his being in it. And now that he’s gone, much of that misery may be relieved.

So please curb any shock you may feel at my thesis. And spare me the false praise of a truly reprehensible human being.

He was against women controlling their own bodies, efforts to desegregate our schools, an individual’s right to love whomever they choose, refraining from executing mentally disabled or teenage prisoners. Heck! He was even against police reading suspects their Miranda Rights!

This was a person who said black people should go to “slower” colleges, homosexuality was the same as murder or bestiality, sex discrimination is constitutional, and maybe we have a right to all carry around rocket launchers in public.

If it is outrageous to feel relief at the death of this man, you may call me outrageous.

I’m not usually the kind of person who celebrates someone else’s death. Not even a famous person.

But you have to admit that the people we love are a lot better off without Scalia in the world.

It’s not like he kept all this to himself. He wasn’t some lone drunkard in the back of the bar mumbling sexist, racist views. He wasn’t your ancient uncle who you only see twice a year making people uncomfortable at the dinner table. He was a judge in the highest court in the land, and his demented and warped world view drove public policy impacting… well… everyone.

He was the deciding vote in several 5-4 decisions that – if they had gone differently – would have greatly benefited every person in this country.

You can thank him for the Presidency of George W. Bush and Citizens United. Let that sink in for a moment.

Imagine all the horrific blunders of the Bush Presidency – easily the worst administration in my lifetime. If the Supreme Court hadn’t given the highest office in the land to Dubya, arguably we wouldn’t have had the Irag War, the Great Recession, No Child Left Behind, the slow response to Hurricane Katrina – maybe even 9-11.

And if you hate what our elections have become, imagine if we didn’t have the Citizens United verdict. Campaign donations would have to be made in public with some limits on how much individuals and corporations can contribute.

How much better the world would have been without these terrible decisions!

I’m not saying Scalia wasn’t a good man in his personal life. I have no idea what he was like to the people he loved. For all I know he may have been a good friend, a loving husband, father and grandfather. He probably had people he cared about and who cared about him. And to those people I send my condolences.

However, he did great harm to just about everyone else. And for that I feel nothing but relief at his death.

Who am I to bask in such schadenfreude?

I am a father and public school teacher.

I have a seven-year-old daughter and several classes full of mostly impoverished and minority students.

And Scalia’s death is good for everyone I care about.

If he were still alive, there was so much more damage he could have done. Take the Friedrichs case, an important one for teachers like me.

The case is an attempt to strip teachers unions of the right to charge members for their services. If the court rules in favor of Friedrichs, it would overturn decades of established law against free riders. People would be allowed to be in a union, enjoy higher salary and benefits negotiated by that union, but not pay dues. It would be absurd. Yet with Scalia still on the bench, most court watchers seem to think we would have had another terrible 5-4 decision.

However, with Scalia’s death, the best anti-union forces would probably receive is a 4-4 decision – not enough to overturn established law. True the case has already been heard by the justices, but a ruling has not yet been handed down. According to the Supreme Court blog, even if Scalia had already written a ruling on this matter, it would be void. Any rulings he wrote that have not yet been made public don’t count.

So the most likely outcome now is that millions of people will continue to be protected from unfair labor practices. And you expect me not to have a big ‘ol smile on my face!?

So where do we go from here?

President Barack Obama will select who is to succeed Scalia. Numerous excellent choices have been floated. If Obama chooses any one of them, he would probably tilt the court fractionally to the left.

Before the body was even cold, Republicans vowed to block any nominee Obama makes until the next President is sworn in. Some are trying out the talking point that Supreme Court Justices have never been sworn in during an election year. But if that were true, we wouldn’t have Justice Anthony Kennedy who was confirmed during the last year of Reagan’s presidency.

Funny. The U.S. Constitution clearly states that the President has the right to nominate Supreme Court Justices with the advice of Congress. Yet so many of these right leaning partisans who considered themselves Constitutionalists last week suddenly find themselves against that revered document today.

I wonder how Scalia would have argued such a situation.

Not really. He was the one who taught the rest of his party how to twist the words of the founding fathers to mean whatever the far right favors this week.

Obama still has more than 300 days in office. If Republicans try to block his nomination until a new face tops the Executive, it would be the longest such obstruction in a century. Of sitting justices, the longest confirmation period was for Clarence Thomas who took 106 days to be approved by Congress.

And that brings us to the 2016 Presidential race.

Scalia’s death is likely to have a huge impact on whom becomes our next President.

If Republicans block Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, it would probably increase voter turnout. Whenever that happens, it favors Democrats since they have more registered members than the GOP.

Either way, Scalia’s death is probably beneficial to whomever the Democratic nominee will be. If either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders get the nomination, supporters of the defeated candidate are more likely to support the reigning Democrat.

Even if voters don’t like the winner’s policies as much as their preferred candidate, they’re likely to support the nominee in order to continue tipping the Supreme Court to the left. After all, three additional justices are 70 or older. Stephen Breyer is 77, Anthony Kennedy is 79, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 82.

We have had a long haul these last 15 years. Much social progress has been stalled.

But now that Scalia is out of the picture, the future looks bright.

Maybe things really will turn out alright. Maybe we’ll actually have a chance to build that better world we’ve all been dreaming about.

Rest in Peace, Scalia. The nation can’t wait to move on without you.

5 thoughts on “Judging the Judge: What Antonin Scalia’s Death Means to the People I Love

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