How Antonin Scalia Changed America's Courts Forever

Christopher N. Malagisi
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Posted: Jan 30, 2018 7:00 AM
How Antonin Scalia Changed America's Courts Forever

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was an icon for conservatives and for conservative jurists inspired by his originalist approach to constitutional law. Bryan Garner was a lifelong friend of Scalia’s, and a fellow jurist.

In his new book Nino and Me, readers are treated to the warm side of Scalia the public rarely got to see. We interviewed Garner, and asked him about Scalia, their work, and its effects on constitutional law. Read it below!

Congratulations Bryan Garner on your new book, Nino and Me: My Unusual Friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia! Tell us about your new book.

It’s a heartfelt memoir of my ten-year writing partnership with Justice Scalia. It’s a book about friendship, literary collaboration, and the last ten years in the life of probably the most interesting man in the world.

What inspired you to write it?

Garner: Our ten years’ worth of adventures were so interesting—and our stories were so revelatory of this great man’s character—that I couldn’t imagine taking them with me to the grave.

What are two or three things people may not have known about Justice Scalia?

How fun-loving he was, how principled he was, and how much integrity he had.

What do you believe, ultimately, will be his legacy, not just for the U.S. Supreme Court, but for the conservative movement and the United States?

Garner: Justice Scalia changed the legal landscape by making textualism and originalism mainstream in American judging—especially when it comes to statutes. He didn’t always carry the day on constitutional questions, but originalism has mostly been adhered to with the First, Second, Fourth, and Eighth Amendments.

I’m proud that our joint work Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts has helped promote textualism and originalism. Today American appellate courts rely on that book—and cite it in their opinions—about a dozen times each month.

Tell us a little more about yourself and your professional background and Black’s Law Dictionary!

I’m a fourth-generation Texan, the grandson of a Texas Supreme Court justice. I fell in love with words and dictionaries when I was 15, and I’ve been a lexicographer ever since. My first book, a dictionary published by Oxford University Press, appeared when I was 28. And I’ve written a good deal about English grammar and usage.

These interests were nurtured during my undergraduate career at the University of Texas, and then I enrolled in UT Law—where as an editor of the law review I became interested in jurisprudence. I clerked for a federal appellate judge, then practiced law for several years before entering academia. Then I turned entrepreneurial when I formed my own continuing-legal-education company.

Meanwhile, I’ve never stopped working on my dictionaries. In 1995, I was asked to become editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, the most widely cited law book in the world, and I’ve done four massive revisions of that 2,000-page book. Like James A.H. Murray, the original editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, I have a scriptorium in my backyard where most of my lexicographic work is done. I have a personal library of 36,000 volumes, which I use in my scholarship. Justice Scalia and I loved working together in my library.

Learn more about Antonin Scalia, Bryan Garner and his new book Nino & Me at the Conservative Book Club!