Watch CBSN Live

Scalia's death leaves crucial SCOTUS cases hanging in the balance

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia drops the court down to eight members as several controversial cases come up on the docket
The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Sc... 02:56

WASHINGTON -- When the justices return to the bench next week, it will be the first time -- for all 8 -- they will serve without Justice Scalia. For 30 years, he was the court's most forceful and influential voice.

The president may name his selection for Just... 01:48

His sudden death will have an immediate impact on the current term, full of controversial cases: regulation of abortion clinics, another challenge to Obamacare, affirmative action in college admissions, and presidential power on immigration.

With Scalia, the court had a narrow conservative majority. Now, it's a court on pause. Many of those cases will end up in a 4-4 tie, keeping the lower court ruling in place and setting no nationwide precedent.

But his passing will affect the institution far beyond one term. He was one of nine justices, but his impact on the court and the law was far greater than a single vote.

His opinions were must-reads for his clear, colorful writing -- like his dissent calling the decision upholding a part of Obamacare "jiggery pokery" and "pure applesauce."

His philosophy that judges should interpret the Constitution they way it was originally understood defined the conservative legal movement.

"I think it is up to the judge to say what the Constitution provided, even if what it provided is not the best answer, even if you think it should be amended. If that is what it says, that's what it says," Scalia said.

Scalia was known for his sharp intellect and ... 02:57

"He's done so much to set the terms of how the court approaches issues," said Paul Clement, who clerked for Scalia in the 1993 term.

As a lawyer, he's argued 80 cases before the court and said Scalia's lively and often sharp questions forever changed the court's dynamics on the bench.

"His very first case, he started asking lots and lots of questions. And even some of the justices that have been there for years, they looked and said, we are not going to let this new guys ask all the questions," he said.

"It fundamentally changed the nature of arguing before the Supreme Court."

Now the court has several big arguments on the horizon, including those abortion and immigration cases. Some of the cases could be rescheduled for next term, but it's unclear whether there will even be a new justice on the court at that point.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.