Who Will Replace Antonin Scalia?

by Jenny Hollander

On Saturday, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia was found dead at a West Texas ranch, seemingly of natural causes. The justice was 79 years old, and according to reports, had attended a party the evening before; his body was discovered in his bedroom the next morning. Multiple law enforcement are involved in the investigation, but given that we're in the midst of the election year, his unexpected death raises the question: Who will replace Antonin Scalia? Update: According to the New York Times, Obama has indicated that he plans to choose Scalia's replacement promptly.

Frankly, details are still up in the air as to what might happen to the Supreme Court line-up in the wake of Scalia's death. U.S. District Judge Fred Biery told My San Antonio, "My reaction is it's very unfortunate. It's unfortunate with any death, and politically in the presidential cycle we're in, my educated guess is nothing will happen before the next president is elected."

In simple terms, if a justice dies while still serving on the court, the president nominates a person to fill that seat. (All Supreme Court justice serve until their death or until they are otherwise incapacitated, according to the U.S. Constitution.) The Senate must vote to confirm that person. Unfortunately, in an election year and with a Republican-controlled Congress, this process may not be as seamless as it would be otherwise. With less than a year until a new president is elected to replace Barack Obama, Scalia's death comes at a temperamental time.

Many on Twitter are suggesting that judge Sri Srinivasan, who was recently confirmed to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals on the D.C. circuit, could be a potential replacement for Scalia. The big question remains: Will Obama replace Scalia, or will our country's next president do so? Already, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, contenders for president in 2016, are calling for the latter.

Sadly, it is not unusual for justices to die while in office: almost 45 percent of justices have died while serving on the court, according to one data analysis.

Scalia had served on the Supreme Court since 1986. In a statement, Texas governor Greg Abbott said: "He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution. We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers."