PITTSBURGH , PA – February 17, 2016- Following the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, Leech Tishman Litigation partner Heather Heidelbaugh, a well-known public commentator on politics, legal matters and election issues, appeared on PCNC-TV’s Pittsburgh Now program to discuss his passing and the potential implications to the Supreme Court.
About Justice Antonin Scalia
On February 13, 2016, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away at the age of 79. At the time of his death, Justice Scalia was the longest serving member of the Supreme Court; appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, he was the 106th appointment to the High Court and was confirmed by a Senate vote of 98-0.
On February 17, 2016, as is tradition, the American Flag, standing tall outside of the Court in its front Plaza, is flown at half-staff. Inside the Court, a black drape hangs over the doors of the Courtroom while inside, Justice Scalia’s Bench Chair, and the Bench directly in front of his Chair, are draped with black wool crepe in memoriam of the person, and personality who, for the last three decades, embodied the Court’s leading conservative voice.
Politics aside, Justice Scalia was regarded by his colleagues as a “legal giant”; “a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit”; “one of the most important figures in the history of the Supreme Court”; and, a jurist whose “views on interpreting texts have changed the way all of us think and talk about the law.”
What follows are some questions/answers from Heather’s interview on Pittsburgh Now:
Q: How did Justice Scalia interpret texts, specifically the U.S. Constitution?
A: Justice Scalia was a textualist.
Q: What is a textualist or textualism?
A: Textualism is a theory of legal interpretation which provides that the ordinary meaning of the actual, written text should govern the interpretation of it. Textualism means that when interpreting the law, judges cannot go beyond the scope of the written text.
Q: What affect does Justice Scalia’s death have on cases that are currently before the U.S. Supreme Court?
A: With the death of Justice Scalia, there are now only eight (8) (i.e., Thomas, Alito, Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor), rather than (9), Justices on the Court.
Q: What does this mean?
A: If, after consideration, a case results in a 4-4 vote, or “deadlock”, the decision of the lower court is affirmed, and the Supreme Court decision has no precedential effect.
Q: What about cases that Justice Scalia has voted on during the current October 2015-June 2016 Term?
A: Justice Scalia’s vote is void, UNLESS the Court has already issued a final decision in the case.
Q: What are a few of the most controversial issues/cases before the Court this term that may be most affected by Justice Scalia’s absence from the Court?
A: Abortion (Whole Woman’s Heath v. Cole); affirmative action (Fisher v. University of Texas); contraception (Zubik v. Burwell); and, immigration (United States v. Texas), to name a few.
Q: What’s the Thurmond Rule?
A: An informal rule of the U.S. Senate which essentially provides that a President should not make a lifetime judicial appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court within the last six (6) months of the President’s Term.
Q: Does President Obama have a “right” to fill Justice Scalia’s vacancy by making a Supreme Court nomination?
A: Yes. President Obama has a constitutional right to make a nomination for Supreme Court Justice now that a vacancy exists. Article II, Section II of the U.S. Constitution provides that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the senate, shall appoint . . . judges of the Supreme Court. . .”
An experienced trial lawyer, Heather is based in Leech Tishman’s Pittsburgh office and has handled a wide variety of litigation matters for business and individuals. Heather focuses her practice on all types of litigation. She is a member of the Academy of Trial Lawyers and the Litigation Counsel of America, a national legal honorary society, and formerly served on the Allegheny County Council as an At-Large Member.
Heather is regularly quoted by local and national television shows and publications and formerly appeared as a panelist on a public affairs program on WQED-TV in Pittsburgh.
Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl is a full-service law firm dedicated to assisting individuals, businesses, and institutions. Leech Tishman offers legal services in alternative dispute resolution, bankruptcy & creditors’ rights, construction, corporate, employee benefits, employment, energy, environmental, safety & toxic torts, estates & trusts, government relations, immigration, insurance coverage & corporate risk mitigation, intellectual property, internal investigations, international legal matters, litigation, real estate, and taxation. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Leech Tishman also has offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Wilmington, DE. For more information call 412.261.1600 or visit us at www.leechtishman.com.