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Duquesne University dean Gormley: Senate refusal could set Supreme Court back years

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Ken Gormley, president-elect of Duquesne University and current dean of its law school.
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In this May 1, 2008, file photo, Judge Merrick B. Garland is seen at the federal courthouse in Washington.
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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
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Judge Merrick Garland is introduced by President Obama as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House, March 16, 2016 in Washington.
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Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, accompanied by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, steps to the microphone as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden Wednesday, March 16, 2016.

If Senate Republicans refuse to hold a confirmation hearing on the president’s pick for the Supreme Court, it could hamstring the high court for the next two years, a Duquesne University legal expert said Wednesday.

Several analysts have pointed out that a 4-4 split could keep the Supreme Court from deciding several important cases during its current term.

What’s less frequently mentioned is that the split would hinder the justices’ ability to decide which cases to hear in 2016, said Ken Gormley, president-elect of Duquesne and dean of its law school.

Add the fact that the next president would have to take office and make a nomination before the Senate could start the confirmation process, and it’s likely the Supreme Court won’t be fully functioning until sometime in 2017, he said.

“It really would disrupt the functioning of the court for two years, not just one year,” Gormley said.

The president and Congress typically move quickly to fill vacancies because of those repercussions and the central role the Supreme Court has come to play in the country’s operation, he said.

“I do think it will be increasingly difficult for the Republicans in the Senate to take the position that there should be no hearings,” he said.

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is among the Republicans who have said, and reiterated Wednesday, that they will refuse to consider an Obama nominee. Waiting until after the election will give voters more of a say in who the nominee is, said Toomey, of Lehigh Valley.

Gormley said Obama’s nominee, appeals court judge Merrick Garland, has impeccable credentials.

“He’s just viewed as a judge’s judge,” he said, “someone who has a sterling reputation. He is viewed as a centrist: someone who is not political at all.”

Brian Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or [email protected].

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