Expert: Brace for Partisan Clash Over Supreme Court Pick

One of the key things President-elect Donald Trump will do after taking office Friday is to nominate a successor to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died nearly a year ago.

Federal appeals-court Judge Merrick Garland was nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Scalia, but the Republican-led Senate never held confirmation hearings on Garland, who has since gone back to the bench in Washington, D.C.

Supreme Court expert Jeffrey Rosen, appearing Thursday in Tallahassee, said to expect a strong partisan divide on Trump’s pick, regardless of who it is. Rosen, president of the non-partisan National Constitution Center, said the drama will likely focus on how many Senate Democrats will ultimately support the nominee.  

“Since 1987, when Robert Bork was defeated for the Supreme Court, nominations have gotten progressively more partisan with every administration,” Rosen said before speaking to the Capital Tiger Bay Club. “Democrats and Republicans have done it. The big question this time is whether Democrats will filibuster the nominee and whether the Republicans will blow up the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations.”

During the confirmation of Justice Elena Kagan in 2010 — the most recent confirmation process — only five of 42 Republican senators voted to confirm her. Trump has circulated a short list of about 20 potential replacements for Scalia, including Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady.

“All of the people on the list are respected, conservative judges,” Rosen said. “Since the judge will be replacing Justice Antonin Scalia, the balance of the court may not change hugely but the kind of judge that the president appoints will have a big effect on the internal dynamics of the Supreme Court.”