Twelve Wisconsin law professors -- seven from Marquette University and five from the University of Wisconsin - Madison -- joined 344 of their colleagues from around the country to urge US senators to hold a hearing and vote on President Obama's nominee to the US Supreme Court.
Obama has nominated of Merrick B. Garland, widely considered a centrist juror, to the seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia.
The letter, signed by a total of 356 law professors and legal scholars, warned that "a long-term vacancy jeopardizes the Supreme Court’s ability to resolve disputed questions of federal law, causing uncertainty and hampering the administration of justice across the country."
"A number of senators have announced that they will not perform their constitutional duty," the letter says. "Instead, they plan to withhold advice and consent until the next president is sworn in nearly a year from now. This preemptive abdication of duty is contrary to the process the framers envisioned in Article II, and threatens to diminish the integrity of our democratic institutions and the functioning of our constitutional government.
Marquette Law School Professor Harvey Kurtz said he signed the letter because "the constitutional duties of the President and the Senate in the matter of appointing and confirming Justices of the Supreme Court are clear beyond doubt. Every utterance that seeks to color the simple and direct statement of those duties in the constitution is a lie. We must finally demand that our elected representatives stop lying to us and hold them accountable for doing so."
"President Obama was elected to a four-year term by the American people," said Marquette Professor Paul Secunda, who also signed the letter. "During this term, the people have already spoken and have given the President constitutional authority to nominate members of the Supreme Court. The Senate has no adequate legal justification for failing to fulfill its constitutional role of advice and consent."
"By refusing to grant the President’s nominee a hearing, the Senate leadership is exceeding its constitutional authority," said Marquette Professor Ed Fallone. "They are upsetting the carefully drafted balance of power contained in Article II of the Constitution.
"The United States Constitution is the foundational law of our land," he said. "It cannot be followed or avoided depending upon convenience or political expediency. Senate Republicans must uphold the oath that they took when they were sworn in – an oath to uphold the Constitution – and give Judge Garland a hearing.
Other Wisconsin letter signers include Susan Bay, Jay Gold, Lisa Mazzie, and Richard Reider of Marquette; and Craig Fieschko, Ted Finman, Margaret Maroney, Thomas Mitchell, and Alan Jay Weisbard of UW-Madison.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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