LISTEN – Rob Natelson On Passing Of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Deep tremors were felt all over the judicial and political realms in the United States on Saturday with the passing of noted jurist and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Scalia, long a conservative icon and voice for constitutional originalism, was found dead of natural causes at a guest ranch in Texas. He was 79.
"He was very kind to me and my work," Natelson, a former constitutional law professor at the University of Montana, said. "He cited my work in his ipinion on the recess appointments case two years ago. Also, while I never actually met him, he visited the University of Montana several years ago and made some assuptions about me that somebody pointed out to him were not true, he sent me a latter essentially apologizing and urging me to come to Washington, D.C. and meet him, but I never got the opportunity."
Natelson said Scalia was universally respected in the legal universe.
"I was absolutely crushed," he said. "This is a person who is by all accounts one of the greatest justices of recent times, perhaps of all time. Everybody across the spectrum agrees probably the greatest intellect on the court. He was the leader of a constitutional movement toward originalism and textualism which was largely created by Justice Scalia in the 1980's.
Natelson said the process to replace Scalia on the court will be fraught with political intrigue.
"There's nothing in the constitution that requires there to be nine justices, and there's nothing in the constitution that would require the Republican Senate to approve President Obama's nominations. Part of the problem is caused by the fact that President Obama has been very confrontational with Republicans, so that people like Orin Hatch, the Republican Senator from Utah, who in the past has been supportive of nominees from Democratic presidents, they're much less inclined to grant the same courtesy to President Obama."
Natelson said he hopes the public and the political world will pause and consider the loss of such a distinguished jurist before launching into wrangling over who his replacement might be.
"Justice Scalia was probably the greatest ever writer of judicial opinions in the history of the court," Natelson opined. "He was also a great social commentator, I heard his talk for example, a few weeks before he died, on the subject of Christian and Catholic education, so he had a great deal to say about things that did not actually deal with the law. He actually helped to create the originalist or textualist movement that has had so much influence over the court in recent years."
Natelson will be on the KGVO Talk Back program on Monday, President's Day, from 8:30 until 9 a.m.