Pete Williams: I'd Be "Very Surprised" If Senate Even Considers Supreme Court Nomination In Election Year

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NBC chief legal analyst Pete Williams reacts to the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, aged 79, on Saturday. Williams says he would be "very surprised" if the vacancy would be filled before the next Supreme Court term starts in October.

"I would be very surprised, frankly, if a vacancy can be filled in time for the next term to start when it starts in October, but it's such an unexpected thing, such a sudden thing, it's such a shock, and that's the way these things tend to go," Williams said.

Williams' full commentary below, aired on MSNBC:

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC'S CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The president will have to pick a nominee, President Obama, and the question here is whether the Senate will even consider a nominee under these circumstances in the middle of an election year. Normally when Supreme Court Justices think about retiring, because of ill health or whatever considerations, they don't historically do it in an election year if they can all avoid it because they don't want the nomination of their replacement to be a political football.

When something like this happens there is no choice but it is a very difficult time and it's certainly going to be something that the Senate is going to have to think about, whether they're going to leave the Supreme Court with just eight Justices and wait until the presidential election to see if a Republican gets elected and will appoint the next nominee or go ahead and fill this vacancy.

I would be very surprised, frankly, if a vacancy can be filled in time for the next term to start when it starts in October, but it's such an unexpected thing, such a sudden thing, it's such a shock, and that's the way these things tend to go.

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