SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Utah’s political leaders send peace and prayers to Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s family following the news of his death as a political battle begins in Washington over who should fill his vacant seat on the Supreme Court.
In a statement this afternoon Governor Gary Herbert said “Like so many others, I am saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. A true legal giant, he will be remembered as an unwavering defender of the Constitution with strong resolve and exceptional intellect. As one of the longest serving justices on our nation’s highest court, his impact on this country will not be forgotten. Jeanette and I extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and offer prayers on their behalf at this difficult time.”
Senator Mike Lee also offering his condolences to the Scalia family saying, “…The Justice and his family are in our prayers. Justice Scalia was one of the greatest Supreme Court justices of all time. His intellect was admired by Americans of all political persuasions and his consistent fidelity to the text and original meaning of the Constitution have transformed the way we all approach the law.”
Attorney General Sean Reyes, also sending prayers to the Scalia family calling Justice Scalia a titan of the legal community. He “leaves an indelible legacy on the high court. He was a man of God, a man of principle and an unwavering defender of the rule of law and the Constitution.”
The Utah Republican Party expressed sadness over the passing on Scalia saying, “Justice Scalia was a pure example of Conservatism to his colleagues, Republicans, and Americans. He was a voice of wisdom to the masses. And a true leader at a time when conservative principles matter most. Utahns mourn with the nation at the passing of Justice Scalia. We will always remember Justice Antonin Scalia his lasting legacy.”
Senator Orrin Hatch called his close friend a wonderful human being who was well respected and admired.
“He was intellectually one of the most powerful justices in history and frankly everybody liked him…He was always right, he knew the laws, he’s gonna be very difficult to replace especially right now,” said Hatch.
As he reflects on the times he spent with Scalia, Hatch shared one memory of him and Scalia in his office after Scalia’s selection to the Supreme Court.
“I remember telling him, ‘Nino you’re gonna have to give up smoking,’ he took his cigarettes right out of his pocket and handed them to me, a whole packet of cigarettes and then he turned to me and said, ‘does that include cigars?’ and I said, ‘come on!”
Tonight, President Obama extended his condolences to his family and announced he would begin the nomination process to fill the vacant seat “in due time,” something Hatch says would not be a good idea.
“If the President decides to go ahead and appoint some very left wing person to the court, I can tell you this, I don’t think that person is going to make it through,” said Hatch.
Senator Hatch says putting the country through a nomination process at this time would be a political mess, and says it should wait until after the election.
“Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was saying this should be delayed until the next presidency, I kinda agree with that because clearly it’s part of the politics of the presidential race right now and I don’t want to see it a political hoopla…Most people on our side would not like to see another Obama appointee to the Supreme Court or any court for that matter because he has appointed the most liberal justices and also judges of any president in history,” Hatch added.
When asked whether it would be fair to the nation to wait another year to appoint a new justice Hatch answered, while both sides would be concerned about a 4-to-4 opinion in the Court, he adds the Court has been able to functional with a smaller constituency in the past, and the next president should have the opportunity to choose the nominee.