Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Replacing the Irreplaceable Justice Antonin Scalia

By Mary Claire Kendall

Following Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death, most Senate Republicans aligned behind the idea that the next president, not President Obama, should nominate someone to fill the vacant seat. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Last week*, the White House, feigning accommodation with the GOP over President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, began vetting Nevada Republican Governor Brian Sandoval. Not surprisingly, Sandoval is liberal on immigration, the pivot of Obama's calculus. His amnesty proposal created a loophole for illegal immigrants to vote in November and if the Supreme Court gives it a pass, game over. (Sandoval has since pulled his name out of consideration.)  

In the wake of Justice Scalia's untimely death on February 13 (or 12), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated forthrightly that President Obama need not nominate anyone because he will not schedule a Senate hearing or vote. The country is too divided, he said, and 'we the people' must first have our say in November on the next president.

Most Republican Senators went along with that.

Then came the second thoughts.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, though initially on board, said, according to Radio Iowa, "I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions."

Furthermore, Senator Thom Tillis said, "I think we fall into the trap if just simply say sight unseen… " But, he said, "If he puts forth someone… in the mold of President Obama's vision for America, then we'll use every device available to block that nomination." (He was speaking on the Tyler Cralle Show.)

Then Majority Leader McConnell's asserted he would not even meetwith the nominee.
But the meeting with Obama solidified Senator Grassley's stance. Waiting until the next president to fill the open seat, he said, is "a fair and reasonable choice."

It's like watching a tennis match!

If the president is sincere about wanting to work with Republicans, he should think seriously about nominating someone who was once on President Ronald Reagan's short list for the Supreme Court, who also happens to be a close friend of the late Justice Scalia.

When I spoke with Justice Scalia's grieving friend on Sunday, February 14, he told me the late great justice was his "best friend in the law" and that his death was "the worst thing for the country" at this critical time, given his pre-eminent role in preserving the values that made our country strong. There is no other, he said.

Well, almost no other.

His name is Judge Thomas J. Aquilino, Jr. He serves on the United States Court of International Trade. Born in 1939 in Mount Kisko, New York, he received his B.A. from Drew University and J.D. from Rutgers, before serving in the Army, 1962-65. A former clerk to Judge John M. Cannella, he worked in private practice in New York City and was an adjunct professor of law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

As Justice Scalia's legal soul mate and, at age 76, his peer, he would, quite naturally, be the most logical and smart nominee.

The two men met while working on the "legislative veto," which President Reagan appealed and won in 1982. Since then, their bond was unbreakable and it's safe to say, their friendship was almost like that of brothers. (Scalia was an only child.)

Judge Aquilino holds firmly to the same principles of conservative jurisprudence Justice Scalia fought for his whole life. President Reagan had considered appointing him to the same Supreme Court seat Justice Scalia ultimately filled for thirty years and subsequently nominated him to serve as a Judge on the aforementioned court, which position he held from April 1985 to December 2004, when he assumed "senior status."

On a personal note, I met Judge Aquilino while working, in 2012-13, with many friends of Reagan to save the former president's childhood home in Chicago. We were introduced by our mutual friend, the late Redd Griffin, who had championed the cause. The two had met in Germany while serving in Army intelligence. Judge Aquilino reached out to his friend "Nino," who assured him, vis-à-vis persuading the University of Chicago, where he taught law from 1977-1982, to preserve Reagan's home, that his weighing in would have the exact opposite effect. We did not save the home.

Now, more importantly, we need to save our Republic. Judge Aquilino would play a vital role in this regard, stepping in to fill his friend's seat, while the country takes a much-needed long, deep breath.  

Mary Claire Kendall, a Washington-based writer, is author of Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends. 

*Published in The Washington Examiner on March 3, 2016.

No comments:

Post a Comment