Impact of Justice Scalia’s death: U-M experts available

February 15, 2016
Contact: Jared Wadley

University of Michigan experts can discuss the political and legal impact of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. They are:

Richard Friedman, the Alene and Allan F. Smith Professor of Law, is an expert on evidence and U.S. Supreme Court history.

“The president is obviously right to nominate a candidate,” he said. “As a political matter, it is not at all surprising that Republicans are taking the view that they won’t move on it. Getting a confirmation when a presidential election is looming is always more difficult. One could easily imagine that if the tables were reversed, so would be the positions. Similarly, when Thurgood Marshall was nominated, Ted Kennedy said that the Senate should not pay attention to the ideology of the nominee. When (Nixon nominees) Haynsworth and Carswell, and later (Reagan nominee) Bork, were nominated, he took a different view.

“I assume we will now have a vacancy of a year, and perhaps more. This is unfortunate, but it does not create a crisis for American government. As it is, the Supreme Court probably decides fewer cases than it should, but the sky does not fall. Some more cases will fail to be resolved on a national level, and that means that some conflicts among courts will continue to fail to be resolved for now, but there are always unresolved conflicts. And remember that almost everything the Supreme Court does is reviewing the decision of another court. So a 4-4 decision just means that the decision of the lower court stands, without the Supreme Court setting any precedent.”

Contact: 734-647-1078,

Gil Seinfeld, professor of law, teaches and writes about federal jurisdiction, the constitutional law of federalism, and civil procedure. He clerked for Scalia during the October 2002 term.

“The Supreme Court decided many contentious cases that year, including the affirmative action cases involving the University of Michigan. I was the liberal clerk in chambers that year (Scalia often made a point of assuring that he had one liberal clerk in the mix), and there were plenty of opportunities for disagreement. Those disagreements were the highlight of my experience.

“The justice had an insatiable appetite for argument and discussion, he always engaged my points head-on, and he consistently made me feel like he valued my opinion—though I succeeded in changing his mind about something of even mild consequence only once, so far as I know. He was incredibly energetic and witty, and, yes, he could be combative, but even in his most combative moments—at least with me—it was obvious how much he loved and took pleasure in the exercise of working through a complex and contentious legal issue. It was a privilege to clerk for him.”

Contact: 734-615-7284,

Richard Hall, professor of political science and public policy, can discuss the U.S. Senate nomination fight to replace Scalia.

Contact: 734-763-4390,