A man died February 13, 2016.
Any number of men died that day the world over. But this man was special, very special and to all Americans.
This man was Antonin Gregory Scalia, a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and a very special one. For some 30 years, Justice Scalia was perhaps the most influential of the nine members of the Supreme Court. Scalia was a thought provoking, Constitutional scholar. He believed that the Constitution should be interpreted as written and not as judges think. He eschewed activist justices who interpreted and even twisted the Law, the Constitution to be what they wanted it to be. Scalia on the other hand was a bulwark of Constitutional fidelity, deep conviction and commonsense. Conservatives everywhere relished the soundness of his decisions.
Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia believed in what he called originalism, Constitutional originalism. That is, Scalia would interpret the text, the actual words of the Constitution, examine their tradition, the meaning of those words as put forth by the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution. That meaning, historically protected, would guide his every decision making and his judicial writings. Scalia would then follow the history of those protected and sacrosanct Constitutional words beginning with the very first decision making of the first United States Supreme Court and carry forward the original intent of the fathers, the implementation of that intent by other right-thinking Supreme Court justices, and apply that Constitutional approach, that originalism to the court decisions of today.
Scalia railed against what he called evolutionary CONSTITUTIONAL JURISPRUDENCE, the philosophy of interpretation put forth by liberal or even radical judges and justices. The Constitution, said Scalia, remains firm, intact, as it was and it needed no updating or evolutionary progression in order to adapt itself to modern times. The Constitution was fixed in time, permanent and not subject to change or interpretation and certainly not adjusted or interpreted to suit the times, modern America. The Constitution he said had an objective and understandable meaning. Know that, he said, and apply it to every Constitutional issue which may arise.
Winston Churchill once said:
“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it.”
Scalia’s deep conviction in Constitutional originalism challenged and motivated the very best lawyers and judges America has had in the past 30 years. American jurisprudence was profoundly influenced by the lighted candle of Scalia and his decisions, his writings and his speeches will live on and motivate the Supreme Court of years to come.
Scalia believes strongly that all judges and especially the Supreme Court justices should “stay out of politics and social ideology.” Scalia reasoned that “if judges will do that, the law will be more certain and the Rule of Law will be more secure.” So many judges, he thought, came to the bench intent upon applying their own standards of belief, their own philosophies, to become ACTIVIST JUDGES which produced the uncertainty and the insecurity of the law and its application. Nothing was worse for the Rule of Law than that. Much of what Scalia believed was included in the book he wrote in 2012:
READING LAW-THE INTERPRETATION OF LEGAL TEXTS
In that book, he made it clear that the so-called doctrine of the LIVING CONSTITUTION means what reformed minded judges think it should mean and not what in fact it does mean. Judges took up issues as a matter of law when in fact so many belonged to the people for their decision and for their interpretation of democracy. Activist judges, said Scalia, declared so many issues to be “off limits to the Democratic process” when in fact those judges and courts had no legal authority to do so nor was it, said Scalia, their business to do so.
Scalia was a man possessed of great wit. His speeches were always highly entertaining. Often, when hearing oral arguments at the Supreme Court, he would erupt with sarcastic and often acerbic wit which produced much laughter in court to the chagrin of the attorneys, who bore the brunt of his sarcasm. Scalia was never above the criticism of his colleagues, especially those liberal colleagues on the court, four of them so that again, the decisions made at all levels would be clear to the judicial community and most especially the people. Ironically, perhaps the two best friends Scalia had among his fellow Supreme Court justices were both extremely liberal, namely Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, ironically both Jewish and he Scalia Roman Catholic.
Born in Trenton, New Jersey and raised in Queens, New York, Justice Scalia attended Georgetown University and Harvard Law School. He practiced law in Cleveland, taught law at the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago and served in the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford Administration. President Ronald Regan appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1982 and four years later, elevated him to the Supreme Court. In an unheard of Senate vote, Antonin Gregory Scalia was confirmed by the United States Senate 98-0. Not one Senator opposed his appointment.
Justice Scalia was influential because he wrote opinions with verve and good sense, and in prose that any American could read and understand. He was, said one legal authority, the best writer the Supreme Court has ever known. He was the courts most withering logician. He was fearless and outspoken even on that most political of courts. When Scalia arrived at the Supreme Court in 1986, its jurisprudence had become sloppy, results-driven and plagued with fuzzy so-called three-part tests as a structure for decision making. But today, the entire court, even the liberal justices have adopted Justice Scalia’s style, close attention to text, awareness of history and analytical rigor. Scalia constantly chastised the court for taking on legal issues which properly belonged to the people and for their decision. In an opinion Justice Scalia in the case PLANNED PARENTHOOD VERSUS CASEY (1992), Scalia wrote the following:
“The people know that their value judgments are quite as good as those taught in any law school-maybe better.”
He went onto say:
“Value judgments should be voted on, not dictated.”
Scalia believed in a colorblind Constitution. He saw no basis in the Constitution for abortion rights. He defended the presence of religion in the Public Square. He defended the right to keep and bear arms. He opposed congressional attempts to regulate campaign speech and he did so with a scintillating wit, often blistering with scorn other lawyers and his fellow colleagues, never deviating from his avowed philosophy of:
Justice Scalia was an avid hunter. He was visiting the Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas during the courts winter break during a hunting trip. He went to bed early Friday night February 12 telling friends he felt tired. Saturday morning he never got up for breakfast. When his room was checked, it was found that Antonin Gregory Scalia had died early Saturday morning in his sleep.
Justice Scalia was a strong Roman Catholic in faith and his son Eugene Scalia is a Roman Catholic priest. The son released this written statement the day after his father died on behalf of his family and especially the NINE Scalia children:
“We were blessed to have a father with great wit, warmth and compassion. We mourn his loss while smiling in remembrance of our time with him. We are proud of his contribution to the court and the country.”
At the Catholic funeral mass for Justice Scalia, those in attendance were all of the eight sitting Supreme Court Justices, two Vice Presidents, a Republican Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz and several potential High Court nominees. Noticeably lacking was President Barack Hussein Obama and First Lady Michelle. Justice Clarence Thomas, Scalia’s closest ally on the court, read a New Testament passage from the Book of Romans and at another time, a eulogy was presented by yet another close friend Ruth Bader Ginsburg who paid homage and honor to this great man. Incidentally, even though the mass was held only miles from the White House, Obama never bothered to come and pay his respects. Critics, including Donald Trump, hammered Obama for skipping Saturday’s funeral and Trump tweeted the following:
“I wonder if President Obama would have attended the funeral of Justice Scalia if it were held in a mosque.”
A very interesting President we have, is he not my fellow Americans? Perhaps Obama was more concerned with nominating Scalia’s successor hopefully for him with a liberal judge or candidate so as to change the balance of the Supreme Court from mildly conservative to liberal in decision making. The Supreme Court with Scalia was nominally conservative, leaned toward the right with essentially four liberal justices and four conservative, with a possible swing vote by Justice Kennedy. With Scalia gone, and the nominating and confirmation of a liberal justice, the Supreme Court could well become liberal, organic, activist in decision making, an avowed objective of Obama and his ilk. Within hours of Justice Scalia’s death, Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate stated firmly that Scalia’s replacement should be chosen by Obama’s successor to be named in November and not by this sitting President. House Speaker Paul Ryan, although without a vote, agreed and stated that the nomination should wait. Obama, knowing that he has the right to make the nomination even now will of course proceed and the Republican controlled Senate would then determine whether or not to hold a hearing on the nominee, or vote on the qualifications of that nominee, or send the nomination to the full Senate for confirmation or disqualification. That nominating and confirming process will be most fascinating to watch as in some ways, the Scalia successor may be as important to America as the very next President of the United States.
Antonin Gregory Scalia died at the age of 79. The Supreme Court is elderly, Justice Anthony Kennedy 79, Justice Stephen Breyer 77 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg 82. The next President may nominate perhaps as many as two or more justices in the next four years. We may well have change, even radical change in the judicial processes as a result.
Winston Churchill said:
“I am ready to meet my Maker. But whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”
There are those who can imagine a divine encounter, the Maker with the Justice, one which would be marked by intellect, humor, wit, humility and faith from a very special man.
Scalia himself said the following:
“I would hope that I would be replaced by someone who wouldn’t undue what I’ve spent almost 30 years standing for.”
Of course, if Obama has his way, that is exactly what would happen. Many feel that Obama will do anything within his Presidential power to replace and erase the man Scalia and the incredible Constitutional work he has done in the past 30 years. Many of the rest of us hope and pray that will never happen.
We the people will miss you, Antonin Gregory Scalia. We will miss you as one of our finest jurist and Supreme Court justices ever. We will miss your leadership, your love of our country and we the people and we can only offer a belated THANK YOU for all that you have done. You will always be remembered and treasured. You were true American to the core.
We were blessed to know you and once again we say with all sincerity: