Dear Mr. XXXXXXXX:
Thank you for writing to share your thoughts about the vacancy on the Supreme Court. I appreciate the time you took to write and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
I understand that you do not believe the Senate should consider a nominee from President Obama to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia. Please know that Article II of the U.S. Constitution states that the President "shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint judges of the Supreme Court." Therefore, I strongly believe that President Obama has an obligation to put forward a nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.
Chief Judge Merrick Garland has served since 1997 on the United States Court of Appeals and has been described as a consensus candidate by Republicans. His strong qualifications have earned him praise on both sides of the aisle. For example, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who previously chaired the Judiciary Committee and strongly supported Garland in 1997, recently described Garland as a "fine man," and also said he would be a consensus candidate for the Court. As you may know, Chief Judge Garland, during his time as the Department of Justice, led the investigation and prosecution following the tragic bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995, which claimed the lives of 168 people. I have attached Senator Hatch's floor statement in support of Garland's 1997 confirmation.
You may be interested to know that 14 Supreme Court Justices have been confirmed in presidential election years, before the presidential election took place. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was confirmed in 1988 during the final year of President Ronald Reagan's term. Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed in October 1991, after the presidential election campaign had begun that year. In both instances, the Senate had a majority of Democratic members, but still moved to confirm the nominee of a Republican President to the high court. In fact, not since the Civil War, in 1862, has the Senate taken longer than a year to confirm a replacement for a Supreme Court vacancy.
In addition, I believe an eight-member court creates the potential for deadlock in important cases, which will create uncertainty in the law. In 2004, Justice Scalia wrote about the dangers of an eight-member Court. He stated that in cases of a tie vote, the Court "will find itself unable to resolve the significant legal issue presented by the case." That means the law and constitutional protections could differ in different parts of the country, denying the full system of justice guaranteed by our Constitution. In fact, the Supreme Court has already deadlocked in two cases since Justice Scalia passed away. I spoke about this issue on the Senate floor and have attached for you a copy of my statement.
While we may disagree on this topic, please know that I respect your opinion and appreciate hearing your feedback. I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind as I continue my duties as a U.S. Senator. If you have additional questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841, or visit my website at www.feinstein.senate.gov. Best regards.
United States Senator
United States Senator