As Christine tragically wrote yesterday, Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away at the age of 79. A great friend and colleague of fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which has also been a subject of interest given that the two are polar opposites on the Court, died in his sleep while on a hunting trip in Texas. Various members of America’s legal community offered their condolences.
Robert P. George of Princeton University noted “Over the course of our nation’s history, many jurists have been described as ‘towering figures in the law.’ Antonin Scalia had the distinction of being one of the handful for whom the description is actually justified.”
“He preached the principle that the Constitution should be interpreted in a way that honors the text—the words on the page—and understood as the words were intended by those whose act of ratification made them the fundamental law of the land,” he added.
“Antonin Scalia was my dear friend and I shall miss him. His death is a grave loss to the Nation and a blow to the cause of fidelity to the Constitution. My deepest condolences to his widow Maureen and to his children and grandchildren. Requiscet in pace.”
Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch said, “Justice Scalia's death reminds us how much our liberties depend upon principled individuals in positions of power. His Supreme Court opinions stand as testament to his genius, wisdom, and his patriotic desire to share the original vision of the Founding Fathers with his fellow Americans.”
Fitton was also adamant "the American voter should decide on Election Day who appoints Scalia's replacement."
The Federalist Society mourned and thanked the late justice for all of his work in various forums and lectures of theirs over the years–and for his work as a legal scholar:
Justice Scalia was among the greatest members of the Supreme Court in our nation's history, and will long be remembered for his intelligent, principled, and tenacious dedication to our Constitution and to faithful interpretation of the law as its is written. He has had an enduring impact on the way our country approaches law and the Constitution, and we are grateful for that extraordinary contribution as well as the tremendous kindness he has shown the Federalist Society and many of its leaders and members since our founding."
Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network called the late Scalia one of the greatest justices in our country’s history:
Justice Antonin Scalia was one of the greatest justices our country has known. My condolences go out to his family and colleagues. Justice Scalia’s decades on the Court have transformed our country’s approach to the law through his unwavering commitment to the text and original meaning of the Constitution. This president, who has shown such contempt for the Constitution and the laws, is the last person who should be appointing his successor. The American people on both sides of the aisle are disgusted with the status quo in Washington and another nomination by this President would just bring about more of the same. The people’s voice should be heard in November to determine who will appoint the next Supreme Court Justice.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, described Scalia as an “intellectual giant,” whose interpretation and dedication of our founding document is something that would surely be missed with his passing:
“Justice Scalia was an intellectual giant. His originalist interpretation of the Constitution set the standard for the court. He had an unwavering dedication to the founding document that has guided our country for nearly 230 years. His humor, devotion to the Constitution and quick wit will be remembered for years to come. Barbara and I send our prayers to Justice Scalia’s family. “The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year. Given the huge divide in the country, and the fact that this President, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice.”
Scalia was the first Italian-American justice on the Supreme Court. While progressives despicably celebrate his death, we must also be reminded, as some have already done so on social media, that Scalia would have probably found this ghastly bunch to be entertaining. He would have probably shrugged, said “hey, that’s their right; I may not like what they’re doing, but it’s freedom of speech ad expression.” A position he often reiterated when he discussed a past flag burning case, wherein he said (comically) that he would have thrown this flag burner into jail if he were king, but he’s not. Therefore, this person burning the American flag was an activity protected by the First Amendment. He would also add that exercising rights is not like strengthening muscles, noting that you could be exercising you First Amendment rights, but it could be in a horrific fashion, or for terrible causes. Yet, given what we have seen from Justice Scalia, he probably would have shrugged off this vitriol spewed about his death.
Besides his legal acumen, his views on his job as a jurist should be commended as well. In an interview with Lesley Stahl of CBS News’ 60 Minutes, Scalia said that he doesn’t attack people, he attacks ideas–and sometimes very good people have some horrible ideas. This circles back to his friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with whom his family would celebrate New Years Eve every year. Scalia added that if you cannot separate the two, you really shouldn’t be a judge.
At the same time, many of the left misconstrue the basic principles within his legal philosophy, especially the one where he feels that legislatures, not the Constitution (or the courts), should be the vehicle for change in our society. As he aptly noted in the interview, there is nothing in the Constitution that bars the people from passing laws legalizing same-sex marriage, the death penalty, or abortion. If you want abortion on demand, pass a law. If you want marriage equality, pass a law. Tired of the death penalty? Then, pass a law through the legislature, which has already been done in some states.
This isn’t controversial, though to many on the progressive left, it’s anathema. That may be more tragic than the hate being hurled at him over the Internet. Regardless, rest in peace, Mr. Justice. You were the most brilliant member of the Court. Your opinions, your wit, and your humor will be sorely missed.