McHenry County lawyers react to controversy over Supreme Court nominee

Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill vacancy left by Antonin Scalia's death

As some Senate Republicans continue to push against President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, McHenry County attorneys say inactivity in the nomination process could impact future court decisions.

Obama nominated Washington, D.C., appeals court Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court earlier this month after conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February.

The president’s nomination has met resistance from members of the Republican-controlled Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Some Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, have requested the Senate vote on the nomination.

Woodstock lawyer Phil Prossnitz said cases that make it to the Supreme Court are there for further guidance. When the court is unable to come to an agreement because there are only eight members, it lessens the value of the decision.

“[The district and appellate courts] are looking for direction. If you have meaningless 4-4 splits, no one is going to get any direction,” Prossnitz said.

McConnell has previously said the nominee should be selected by whoever succeeds Obama next January after the presidential election.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found that 62 percent of registered voters said the Senate should consider Garland and a CBS News/New York Times poll said 53 percent of Americans would like the Senate to vote on the nomination.

Robert Jones, associate professor of law at Northern Illinois University, said the nomination process has become increasingly politicized and contentious over the past three decades – which is consistent with the polarization of Congress.

Jones said while some issues will result in a 4-4 split, in those cases the lower court decision will stand and it will be “as if they just never took the case at all.”

“Those issues might have to come back down the road to the court again so they can decide the issue definitively,” he said.

Crystal Lake attorney Gary Newland said the Constitution intended for the president to pick a Supreme Court nominee and those standing in the way may be putting history aside.

“Sometimes justice delayed is justice denied,” Newland said.

Carlos Arevalo, a Woodstock attorney and recent former president of the McHenry County Bar Association, said while the process should be followed, it is hypocritical for one party to say the other side is the only one who acts in this manner.

“The problem that I have is that the art of compromise is just no longer found,” Arevalo said.

Prossnitz said the issue needs to be less about political games and more about making decisions and doing their jobs.

“The Founding Fathers would be sickened by this gamesmanship,” he said, adding that both Democrats and Republicans have done this in the past.

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