Archive for February, 2016



Since the death of Supreme Court Justice Antony Scalia, the Constitution requires a replacement nominated by the President. Assuming an academically qualified nominee, the Senate should approve. The fact that President Obama is in his last year is irrelevant and no reason for the Senate to refuse to consent.

During President Washington’s eighth and final year, he named two Justices to the Court, Samuel Chase on Jan. 27, 1796, and Oliver Ellsworth on March 4, 1796. President John Adams sent Chief Justice John Marshall on Jan. 31, 1801. This was after he lost the Nov. 1800 election to Thomas Jefferson and before the President-elect was sworn-in in March.

In 1836, President Jackson’s final year, Justices Roger Taney and Philip Barbour both started on March 15. Jackson also elevated Justice John Catron on March 8, 1837, after President Van Buren won the Nov. 1836 election and while Jackson was packing his bags. President Tyler picked Justice Samuel Nelson for the Court on Feb. 14, 1845. This was after President Polk won the 1844 race and Tyler was going home.

In his last year, President Hayes presented Justice William Wood to the Court on Dec. 21, 1880. He did this after President-elect Garfield won the Nov 1880 election and Hayes was a lame duck. President Cleveland put two Justices on the Court in 1888, namely Justice Lucius Lamar on Jan 16, 1888, and Justice Melville Fuller on Oct. 8, 1888, just one month before Benjamin Harrison defeated Cleveland.

During his final year, Republican Ben Harrison named Justice George Shiras on July 26, 1892. He also added Justice Howell Jackson, on Feb. 18 1893, after losing the Nov. 1892 contest. During his last year, President Taft sent Justice Mahlon Pitney on March 13, 1912. President Hoover elevated Justice Benjamin Cardozo on March 2, 1932, before being soundly defeated in November.

President Franklin Roosevelt picked Justice Frank Murphy on Jan. 18, 1940, during his eighth year, and before announcing an intent to seek a third term. During the last year of his first term, President Nixon appointed Justice Lewis Powell and Justice William Rehnquist, both on Jan. 7, 1972. President Reagan nominated Justice Anthony Kennedy, who assumed the bench on Feb. 18, 1988, during Reagan’s eighth and final year.

We had elections in 2008 and 2012 as to who should name our Supreme Court Justices. Obama won both. We don’t need or want another referendum. The fact that Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky vowed to deny Obama his constitutional right to replace Scalia is frankly no surprise. McConnell is a crusty old Southern obstructionist, born in Alabama. Some bad attitudes just never die.

While Wis. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, can be relied on to consent to Obama’s nominee, the same is not true of Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. If he joins McConnell and obstructs the will of the people, this November, every Wisconsin voter should help former Sen. Russ Feingold drive Johnson from office.