Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died this past weekend at age 79, while visiting Cibolo Creek Ranch in West Texas. Scalia was a powerful conservative advocate, who influenced many key decisions since his 1986 appointment by President Ronald Reagan. He was known for his tough questioning tactics during oral arguments, and his fervent adherence to originalism - a constitutional interpretation that follows the words and meaning of the United States Constitution in a strict, literal sense.
Scalia was a strong supporter of free speech, as well as an opponent of abortion and affirmative action. He also advocated separation of powers, smaller government, and federalism. Some of his memorable decisions include District of Columbia v. Heller, which protected the Second Amendment right to have a firearm at home; and Stanford v. Kentucky, which upheld the death penalty for offenders as young as sixteen years old.
He was also known for his scathing dissents and unique writing style. Scalia dissented in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that there was no constitutional right to an abortion, and was outspoken in his disdain for Obamacare. In King v. Burwell, Scalia referred to the Supreme Court's interpretation of Obamacare as "pure applesauce" and "interpretive jiggery-pokery."
Scalia was the longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court of the current appointments, and his sudden death coincides with a time of political fervor as well as an upcoming Supreme Court term packed with hot-issue cases. President Obama now has an opportunity to appoint a new Supreme Court justice, which could swing the previously conservative-leaning court towards a more liberal sta ndpoint. However, the United States Senate, currently made up of a Republican majority, must confirm President Obama's appointment. Until a new justice is appointed, the Supreme Court can continue to hear cases, but in split 4-4 decisions, the court will either have to hold the case until a replacement judge is confirmed or leave the lower court's decision intact.