On March 16, 2016 President Barack Obama fulfilled his Constitutional duties and nominated highly qualified Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacant seat in the United States Supreme left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. With more than ten months until inauguration day, it would seem logical that the US Senate would at least vote on Judge Garland’s qualifications to be the next US Supreme Court Justice. Judge Merrick Garland is one of the most qualified candidates ever to be a Supreme Court Justice because of his academic accomplishments and work as a Judge in the District of Columbia. Garland served as the Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1997 to 2013 and then was appointed Chief Justice of the same court in February 2013.
Despite logical assumptions, the Senate has refused to even vote on Judge Garland for over six months. The void left in the Supreme Court by Scalia’s death and the Republican controlled Senate’s unwillingness to even vote on Judge Garland has left a mere eight justices that have reached numerous split decisions including in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association and United States v. Texas in which Obama’s administration was dealt a massive defeat in regard to immigration law. The Supreme Court was designed to have an odd number of justices for a reason. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial court in America and should have the final say on cases. A four-four tie in the Supreme Court upholds the decision of a lower court, which essentially deems the Supreme Court useless in deciding a crucial case about immigration law in American.
In mid-May now presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump published a list of potential Supreme Court nominees including Steven Colloton, Allison Eid, Raymond Gruender and Don Willett—all highly qualified judges with long histories of conservative decisions. Trump was advised strongly to publish his list of potential Supreme Court nominees to appease many ardent conservatives who feared Trump would fail to adequately nominate a true conservative to replace Justice Scalia. While Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has not released any lists of her own, she has frequently requested Senate leaders to “do your job” and vote on Merrick Garland’s nomination.
The results of the 2016 election will certainly alter the future of the Supreme Court for years to come. If Donald Trump were to win, a conservative Justice would be nominated to replace Scalia and could maintain the previous balance of five conservative justices to four liberal justices present before Scalia died. If Hillary Clinton wins, there are multiple scenarios. While most would expect the Senate to approve Merrick Garland’s nomination, there is also a remote possibility President Obama removes Judge Garland from consideration and allows Clinton to make her own nomination. However unlikely this scenario may be, it certainly is a possibility that could push the Supreme Court further to the left than Garland’s approval would. Obama nominated Garland because he is more of a centrist than his other two appointees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, so there does remain a chance he removes his nomination and allows Clinton to nominate a far more liberal justice.