US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep. The 79-year-old was the first Italian-American to sit on the highest court in the US. His death opens up speculations about what happens next.

Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement that Scalia was an “extraordinary individual and jurist.” “His passing is a great loss to the court and the country he so loyally served,” CNN quotes his statement. “We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family.”

Google Trends has found a number of top questions on the issue after reports of Scalia’s death came up. The question which stands at number one is: what happens when a Supreme Court justice passes away. Here is the answer.

Filling the Vacancy of a Supreme Court Justice

The vacancy needs to be filled. However, not every Senate leader is in favour of that at the moment. Some of them believe the position should be filled only after America decides its next president.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” the Washington Post quoted Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

However, there are some who find it “shameful” to leave the position vacant for nearly a year. “It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat. Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities,” Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid said.

How Long Does it Take?

It takes around 75 to 90 days for the nomination of a justice. The Senate Judiciary Committee takes about 60 days for the vetting process.

The flip side of this process is that it will already be May by the time the vetting process gets over. Then, the Thurmond Rule will be applicable. The rule means new judicial nominations won’t be accepted with only a few months left for the presidential election.

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