When I first read the news that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had passed away, I thought it was a joke. How could something so momentous like the death of the defender of Conservative principles overtake us, and on Presidents Day weekend no less?
A few hours later, the truth confirmed my worst fears. Lo and behold, the avid hunter of truths and legal doctrine (while on a hunting trip in West Texas) the keen mind and wise appointee of President Ronald Reagan had passed away, in his sleep. He literally rests in peace now.
But the Republic whose fundamental principles he defended is now as fitful and restless as ever.
First, I honor this man, this teeming, brimming intellect. Then I will speak to the implications for us and our country following his death.
Jersey Boy Antonin Scalia, who later brought the song out of the law, who reminded us all our of God-given rights and liberties per the US Constitution, was a young Catholic, later incredibly gifted legal scholar possessed a love for words and the law.
He worked in law firms, taught in universities, served on federal courts.
President Ronald Reagan twice appointed this jurist of Sicilian descent.
Reagan would ultimately appoint four justices to the Supreme Court. The first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, had already arrived in 1981. The US Senate later fought over William Rehnquist (fearing his judgment on certain civil rights cases), but the Democratic US Senate majority could not stop him. All while playing the race card, the same caustic Democratic caucus faced another dilemma. Would they stall the first Italian-American Supreme Court justice?
No way. Reagan was brilliant, and used the media and Democratic inner divisions against themselves. Thirty years ago, most conservatives cannot recall that Reagan the towering conservative had to work—and work over--Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, and yet he accomplished so much.
One of Reagan’s greatest legacies? Scalia.
The life of this Supreme Court Justice may not excite the kind of valor or drama of the President, or certain members of Congress.
Scalia’s life lived in his words, not just written in legal opinions, but uttered from the bench. In unprecedented fashion, Scalia excoriated the flawed reason of his liberal colleagues, and their deteriorating disregard for our Founding Charter.
Some of his strongest dissents included one of his final dissents, despising the gay marriage ruling, which redefined marriage by judicial fiat. Scalia laid out his wit as well as wisdom.
The wit, mocking the majority opinion:
“’The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.’ ”Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.”
Scalia was hip, even when shoot from it.
Then the wisdom, ominous and harrowing, like the Owl of Minerva which howls at midnight:
“I write separately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy.”
“This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”
Scalia was more than a conservative. He was conserving the founding verities of our Constitution, the English Common law which reared those values, and our natural rights eternally fashioned by the Supreme Judge of the world.
From these prophetic outcries, we brace for concerns ahead of us, and the times to fight against them.
We the People fret about the opinions of five unelected, read unaccountable justices. We fear for the fate of our Republic. Who will replace this irreplaceable gentleman-lawyer?
But why are we worried in the first place?
The Framers never intended for the judiciary to hold such sway over our rights, our liberties, or even the rule of law.
One of my favorite quotes from the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton writes:
“Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution.”
Hamilton’s optimism has given way to Scalia’s pessimism.
The Supreme Court is too powerful, or has been granted too much authority.
Judicial review in connection with the definition, limit, or expansion of the rule of law has crippled not just our democracy, but our liberty.
Individuals and state legislatures freely exercised their power to decide intense legal and moral quandaries. Today, our power as citizens faces unprecedented attack from an elite, rogue judiciary, which has aided and abetted a fawning legislature ceding power of the pursue piecemeal to an excessive executive branch (both under Bush 43 as well as Obama).
Where are our checks and balances? How much have we forgotten about our Godly legacy, and our enriched American heritage?
Citizen Scalia’s bold defense of our Constitution, both spirit and letter, will be sorely missed. Our fears about his demise and eventual replacement should hasten us not only to pay close attention to who replaces the current Occupant in the White House, but also our representatives in Congress for the duration.
We the people need to assert our authority once again, to recognize that the state does not give us our standing or benefit us with liberty, but rather we establish who we are by limiting the rule of the state in our lives.
In the days ahead, I intend for every governing body to mourn the loss of so great a Supreme Court Justice, but more importantly to fight, so that we do not mourn the loss of what Scalia so greatly prized: the blessings of liberty, and more importantly … the right to govern ourselves.