WASHINGTON (AP) — A timeline of key events following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and leading up to President Donald Trump’s nomination of a new justice.
Feb. 13, 2016 — Scalia is found dead in his room at a Texas ranch where he had gone on a hunting trip. His death at age 79 leaves the high court split between four liberal justices and four conservatives. Within hours, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says President Barack Obama should not fill the vacancy during an election year and it should be up to the next president. Obama later says in a televised address that he plans to fulfill his constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor.
March 16 — Obama nominates Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to take Scalia’s seat. Obama hopes Garland’s reputation as a respected moderate puts pressure on Republicans to consider him. But Republicans stand firm and insist they will not even grant a Senate hearing.
March 29 — The Supreme Court announces its first deadlock in a case since Scalia’s death, handing a win to labor unions in a high-profile dispute over fees. The split vote leaves in place an appeals court ruling that allows unions representing government employees to collect fees from all workers, even those who choose not to join.
April 12 — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley tells Garland during a meeting that the Senate won’t advance his nomination for the rest of the year.
May 16 — The Supreme Court sends back a dispute over access to birth control to lower courts. The move averts a 4-4 tie and suggests the justices could not form a majority to issue a ruling that would have settled the issue.
May 18 — Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, releases a list of 11 potential picks to replace Scalia. The list offers a mix of federal and state judges and appears tailored to win over conservatives still skeptical of Trump’s candidacy. It includes federal appeals court Judge Thomas Hardiman, who would later emerge as a leading contender.
June 23 — The Supreme Court announces it is deadlocked in a dispute over Obama’s plan to protect millions of immigrants who are in the United States illegally. In the fourth 4-4 split of the term, the justices leave in place a lower court ruling that said the Obama administration lacked the authority to shield up to 4 million immigrants from deportation.
July 21 — Trump in his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination pledges to replace Scalia with “a person of similar views, principles and judicial philosophy.” He says the pick “will be one of the most important issues decided by this election.”
July 21 — Garland becomes the longest-waiting Supreme Court nominee without a Senate confirmation vote. The previous record was held by Justice Louis Brandeis, who waited 125 days before he was confirmed.
Sept. 23 — Trump adds 10 more names to his list pf potential Supreme Court nominees, including federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch, who would later emerge as a top contender.
Nov. 8 — Trump defeats Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, giving him the power to re-establish the court’s conservative tilt.
Jan. 18, 2017 — Garland returns to his federal appeals court.
Jan. 24 — Trump narrows his choices to three judges, according to people familiar with the selection process. The leading contenders are Gorsuch, Hardiman and federal appeals court Judge William Pryor.
Jan. 31 — Trump announces his nominee for the Supreme Court.
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