Supreme Court Justices Can Still Function With Eight

Supreme Court justices have largely been seen as the final authority of the nation’s laws, laws which in an era of social media, have been scrutinized and discussed more when they end up going to the nine highest justices in the nation.

And in light of the passing of Antonin Scalia, there’s also talk about — not only the appointment of another judge to replace him, but whether eight Supreme Court justices is enough to make sense of the law.

Many are unaware that the Supreme Court cannot enforce the law so much as that they can rule in favor of, confirm, or interpret the laws from one side over the other. It is then up to other branches of government to enforce them.

But even so, the debate over these issues has even made at least one of the Supreme Court justices, Sonia Sotomayor, prior to this last weekend, express surprise that when the court ruled on something, the polarization revealed that their ruling was simply was not good enough.

Supreme Court justices: Sonia Sotomayor

What has been argued since the death of Scalia is the president’s responsibility regarding the appointment of Supreme Court justices. And within hours of Scalia’s death, as noted in The Inquisitr, Republicans were already saying loudly that they would block nominations until there was a new president.

This was largely led by Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and soon after this, others were joining the effort.

By Saturday evening, Reuters published a report on the potential Supreme Court justices the president might be considering to replace Scalia, some of whom already have the support of at least one conservative candidate running for president this year.

Supreme Court justices pictured together
But as to whether the remaining Supreme Court justices will be able to function without Scalia, the answer appears to fall in the positive, because there are rules around ties in rulings on decisions, which CNN explained.

“The entire tenor of this term has now changed,” said Stephen Vladeck a CNN contributor and a law professor at American University Washington College of Law. “The court can try to go ahead, but on cases where they are split 4-4, their only options are to leave the lower court decision intact or to hold the case over until Justice Scalia’s replacement is confirmed.”

If the court is equally divided in a case, ruling 4-4, it means the lower court opinion stands and there is no precedent set by the Supreme Court.

The Inquisitr suggested that, after a third place win, Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio would likely be the new face of the GOP since the Republican leadership is reportedly concerned about giving the nomination to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

Sunday morning, Rubio was a guest on CBS’ Face The Nation where he was asked about assigning Supreme Court justices.

Even though other Republicans have said the same thing as Rubio, he is the only one who has apparently brought up the supposed precedent that Supreme Court justices are usually not nominated during the last year of a presidency.

Politifact quickly closed in on his statements about nominating Supreme Court justices and rated him at “mostly false” with regard to the last time a “lame duck” president had selected one of the replacement Supreme Court justices.

Right before the airing of Face The Nation, which generally comes on about thirty minutes after another weekend news program called Meet The Press on another network, Rubio was more clear on why he would support blocking the president’s nomination of justices, according to Talking Points Memo.

“Here’s the bottom line, I don’t trust Barack Obama on the appointment of Supreme Court justices. We cannot afford to have Scalia replaced by someone like the nominees he’s put there in the past. We’re going to have an election, there’s going to be a new president, I believe it’s going to be me, and we’re going to look for someone that most resembles Scalia to replace him.”

Given that the president has already said during his immediate speech following Antonin Scalia’s death that he would uphold his constitutional duty to appoint one of the justices to the Supreme Court, the act of blocking them is not just a matter of saber rattling, as currently Rubio already has blocked a ambassador to Mexico that the president had tried to appoint recently.

Democrats have also publicly said that they will make an effort to do something about appointing Supreme Court justices before the president’s term ends.

[Featured image by Phil Roeder (Flickr: Supreme Court of the United States) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]