Attorney Kamau Franklin says Justice Antonin Scalia participated in some of the most reactionary rulings affecting blacks, women, gays and workers in Supreme Court history
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: The U.S. Supreme Court’s future grabbed center stage in the country’s presidential campaign with the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, setting up an election year battle over who should succeed him on the nine-member bench that interprets U.S. law and decides critical issues that shape American life. Scalia’s legacy has also come to the forefront. KAMAU FRANKLIN: His legacy was one of pushing us back on a lot of important issues. His stance on affirmative action, his stance on gutting the Civil Rights Act, his votes for Citizens United, the [lobby] [inaud.] case in terms of religious beliefs. I think over and over again Scalia demonstrated himself to be one of the most conservative, and quite frankly, anti-black, anti-gay, anti-women Supreme Court justices that we’ve ever had, probably since the origination of the Supreme Court. NOOR: The passing of the 79-year-old ultra-conservative justice set up a political showdown between President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled Senate over who will replace Scalia. FRANKLIN: Yeah, and I think that’s what makes this upcoming appointment so particularly important. NOOR: This is longtime attorney and activist Kamau Franklin. FRANKLIN: If Obama gets to pick that person, or if a Democratic presidential nominee actually becomes the president, then they would obviously pick somebody at the very least more moderate to liberal. And that would have a huge change in future Supreme Court decisions. And that can very well do what you just said. It could overturn Citizens United. There are several different civil rights cases. The Civil Rights Act, which was recently gutted by the Supreme Court, that could come back up, and that could be changed. So this is something that’s going to be really politicized and highly fought after, or fought for, over the next I would say 18 months, depending on not only what happens in the presidential election, but actually how far the Senate can go in stopping a nominee from President Obama when he appoints somebody. NOOR: The U.S. president has the job of nominating justices, and the Senate has the job of confirming. President Obama has said he will put forth a nomination in due time. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose Republicans control the Senate, says the vacancy should not be filled until Obama’s successor takes office next January, so that voters have a say in this election. LINDSAY GRAHAM: President Obama is not going to get the benefit of the doubt from me. He’s the one who led this abuse of power by Harry Reid. He supported Harry Reid’s decision. And unless he can find a consensus choice, the next president will pick the replacement for Justice Scalia. I told him back then what I would do, and I’m going to do what I said. FRANKLIN: The Republican angle at this stage is to, as I think Donald Trump did say in one tweet, was to delay, delay, delay. So I think even if President Obama does nominate someone rather quickly, I think the Senate, which is obviously in Republican hands, will do everything it can to make sure that this nominee is postponed, his nomination is postponed, for as long as possible. NOOR: While both political parties had already made the future of the country’s highest court a campaign issue, Franklin notes the differences between a potential nominee put forth between the two leading Democratic candidates. FRANKLIN: Bernie Sanders clearly, whatever limitations he may have on being as far left as some of us may want him to be, is purely a left-thinking person, particularly on domestic politics. So he, I would clearly put him in a sort of a progressive to left camp, in terms of his social democratic views. And so I think his ability to actually win–now, whether or not the Senate, or how much the Senate would fight anybody he put in there, but his ability to become the president would mean that people who would probably be nominated for the Supreme Court would have that much more sort of progressive or left views when it came to civil rights and human rights, when it came to domestic economic policy. Could you imagine someone from a Sanders point of view being appointed to the Supreme Court, and their view on something like Citizens United. NOOR: The Supreme Court will continue to function without a replacement to Scalia, but this will have a significant impact on its ability to set precedence. FRANKLIN: And the Supreme Court will continue to hear cases and to make decisions. If there is a 4-4 tie, then whatever the lower court opinion was on that case when it was brought to the Supreme Court, that actually still holds. So the Supreme Court doesn’t create new law if it’s a tie, only if there’s a, if there’s a clear majority. So I think it’s an interesting time, because you have Kennedy, who is a swing vote, who was actually appointed by Reagan. He could go on the Republican side, or on the right-wing side, let’s say. It would be a 4-4 tie. If he goes over to the other side, and it [presents] a 5-3, in which the more liberal side actually will win whatever case they have. So it’s going to be important in terms of right-wing opinion, or right-wing justices, to win Kennedy over, because if they can’t win him over, at the very least they lose 5-3 over and over again. This obviously shifts a little bit of the possibilities for what we would consider some just and fair outcomes, as opposed to Scalia still being on the bench. NOOR: For the Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.
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