By Kaye Foley
The Supreme Court of the United States — one of the three branches of the U.S. government and the legal backbone of our system of checks and balances —has a vacant seat, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13, 2016 at the age of 79.
The nine-member court is responsible for reviewing federal and state court cases and interpreting laws to decide what is constitutional and what isn’t. These decisions set a legal precedent for all lower courts across the nation. Technically, only a quorum of six justices is required to decide a case. If there’s a tie, the lower court ruling is upheld.
According to the U.S. Constitution, the president nominates a candidate “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” The position is for life — unless a justice is impeached or retires.
The president selects a nominee by considering a person’s experience, ideology and political views. Before the entire Senate votes, the Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings to question the nominee on his or her judicial record. At least 60 votes are needed to avoid a filibuster and proceed to confirmation of the nominee, which is more difficult when the president and the Senate majority are in opposite parties.
Only about a dozen nominees have been rejected. When that happens, or when someone’s name is withdrawn, the nomination process starts all over again.
So as politicians on both sides of the aisle weigh in on who they think should fill the vacancy, when it comes to the appointment of Supreme Court justices, at least after watching this video, you can say, “Now I get it.”