Scalia Remembered

Justice Antonin Scalia poses in his robe.


Justice Antonin Scalia poses in his robe.

Grace Sullivan, News Editor

Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on February 13, 2016, has been the nation’s leading exponent of uncompromising conservatism on the court for the past several decades. The 79 year old served on the Supreme Court for 29 years following his nomination by Ronald Reagan in 1982. During that time, Scalia advocated for close adherence to a literal translation of the Constitution. At times, Scalia was more widely hailed for his biting written dissents than for his actual voting. His commentary has been critical to debate on issues such as abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, and religious liberty. In one of his most famous cases, Heller Vs. DC, Scalia declared that a close reading of the Second Amendment guarantees the individual right to gun ownership.

As a man, Scalia was characterized by his faith. As a fundamentalist Roman Catholic, he frequently fought on the conservative side of social issues. For 56 years, Antonin Scalia was married to his wife, Maureen. Together, the couple had nine children. Scalia’s love for the opera also led him to form a close personal friendship in an unlikely place. For years, Scalia’s best friend was Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a liberal justice who frequently disagreed politically with Scalia.

On February 13, Scalia had been staying at a luxury ranch in West Texas. The day prior to his death, Scalia hunted blue quail in the morning and attended a private party in the evening. When he failed to show up for breakfast, he was found dead, lying peacefully in his bed. Chief Justice Roberts, reporting Scalia’s death, said, “He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”

Just hours after Scalia’s death, the political battle over replacement began. Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, stated, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” In response to this, the Democratic minority leader, Senator Harry Reid, said, “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.” Obama himself commented, saying, “I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time.”

Even as the debate continues over filling the vacancy, Americans remember a man who was dedicated both to his beliefs and to his family. In death, Scalia continues to be as divisive as ever, but perhaps his life can serve as a model for future political civility. In his close friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsberg, conservative and liberal political differences were put aside in favor of personal unity. This ought to serve as a model for all Americans.