UMass Law faculty reacts to passing of Justice Scalia

UMass Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek:

Justice Scalia, who was universally viewed as the most conservative member of the
Court, served for almost thirty years. I believe this is the first time in many
years that a Justice died so unexpectedly. His passing is especially significant at
a time when as many as a quarter of the Court’s decisions each year are decided by a
vote of 5-4. Scalia’s passing has other significant effects: (1) President Obama
gets to make another appointment (although there will almost certainly be Republican
resistance in the form of refusal to hold confirmation hearings), (2) because of the
number of split decisions, this appointment is especially significant, (3) decisions
in pending cases now might end in a tied vote, which means that the lower court
opinion is affirmed without precedential effect.

About Mary Lu Bilek

Assistant Professor of Law Jeremiah Ho:

Whether you agree with his politics or not, Scalia’s writings at the Supreme Court
were very colorful and masterfully written. If you read carefully his dissents in
the pro-gay rights opinions, he predicted the incremental path that the Court would
eventually take to extend marriage to same-sex couples–even through the unapproving
lens of originalism. His personality and wit at the Court will be unmatched for a
very long time.

About Jeremiah Ho

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Professor of Law and Professor of Law Eric
Mitnick:

Justice Scalia’s impact not just on the law, but on how judges should go about
determining what the law is, was and remains enormous. In particular, his approach
to constitutional interpretation, his emphasis on the role of history and the
importance of the original understanding of the constitutional text, has and will
continue to influence American jurisprudence for a long time to come.

Most critically for the present Supreme Court term, Justice Scalia’s absence may
very well alter the outcome in some of the most politically charged cases. With five
right-leaning and four left-leaning justices, many were anticipating 5-4 decisions
to, for example, overrule circuit court cases that upheld affirmative action and the
right of public unions to charge their members agency fees. If those decisions end
up 4-4, the lower court decisions will stand, and affirmative action in university
admissions and public union agency fees will be permitted continue.

About Eric Mitnick