The life and death of Justice Antonin Scalia
Justice Antonin Scalia, often regarded as one of the most influential and provocative members of the Supreme Court, died early in the morning on Sunday, Feb. 13 at a ranch in West Texas.
Scalia was the valedictorian at Xavier High School, graduated first in his class at Georgetown University and subsequently completed his studies at Harvard Law School magna cum laude.
Before being nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan, Scalia was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. After serving there for about four years, he was nominated to the Supreme Court by Reagan and was confirmed by the Senate unanimously.
Justice Scalia was one of the leaders of the Supreme Court’s conservative wing, as well as the longest-serving member of the current court. Although he leaned to the right more often than not, his need to follow originalism caused him to take positions that were completely opposite of what his policy preferences might ordain.
For example, in a case regarding flag burning as “expressive conduct,” the Dallas County Assistant District Attorney defended Texas’ law by called the American flag America’s cherished property, claiming it must be protected from “individual desecrators.” Justice Scalia promptly replied, “I never thought that the flag I owned is your flag.” Scalia then went on to ask what other “cherished” symbols Texas would protect from desecration, such as a state flower.
His vivid, blunt responses brought some life to an otherwise “sleepy bench,” according to an article in The New York Times. In the end, however, Scalia’s vote was the one that decided the case. A five to four majority ruled that the First Amendment protected the right to burn the American flag.
On the role of a Supreme Court justice, Scalia believed that “[they] don’t sit here to make the law, to decide who ought to win. [They] decide who wins under the law that the people have adopted. And very often, if you’re a good judge, you don’t really like the result you’re reaching.”
The Pacific community has voiced its concerns regarding the possible instability between liberal and conservative justices on the Supreme Court post-Scalia’s death. Jodi Tai ‘16 is “a little concerned that in the coming years our country’s government might lack a… healthy balance between liberal and conservative legal opinions.”
Echoing her concerns, Grace Chang ‘16 adds that “we’ll need another conservative successor [in the SCOTUS] so the justices represent all kinds of views.” No matter which side people lean toward, it is considered popular opinion that the Supreme Court of the United States has lost one of its most eccentric and competent justices, a void that could take some time to fill.
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