Thursday, February 18, 2016

Antonin Scalia, R.I.P.

Last weekend we lost the point man for
the originalist, authentically conservative
position on interpretation of the Constitution
on the United States Supreme Court.
Justice Antonin Scalia, known as "Nino" to
his colleagues on the Court and to close friends,
passed away over the weekend of February 12-
13 in his sleep while on a quail hunting trip
in Texas with friends. Scalia was a month away
from his 80th birthday.

Born in Trenton, New Jersey on March 11, 1936
to Italian immigrant and law clerk Salvatore
Eugene Scalia and Catherine Louise Panaro Scalia,
born in Trenton to Italian immigrants. She taught
in an elementary school. In 1939 the Scalias moved
to Queens, New York, where young Antonin
attended P.S. 13. After completing the eighth grade,
Scalia obtained a scholarship to attend Xavier
High School, a Jesuit military school in Manhattan
where he graduated at the top of his class in 1953
and was named valedictorian. One of his classmates,
future New York State official William Stern,
remembered Scalia for his strong conservatism
which was evident even at such an early age:
"The kid was a conservative when he was seventeen
years old. An archconservative Catholic. He could
have been a member of the Curia. He was the top
student in his class. He was brilliant, way above
everybody else."

In 1953, Scalia enrolled at Georgetown University
where he graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1957
with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. While
at Georgetown Scalia was a champion debater at
the university's famous debating society whose
motto is "Eloquence in Defense of Liberty".  A
fitting place for the budding conservative lion
indeed. Scalia further honed his communication
skills as an award-winning thespian in Georgetown's
drama club. He studied abroad in his junior year
at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.
After graduating from Georgetown Scalia went
to the Harvard Law School, where he was the Notes
Editor for the Harvard Law Review. Graduating there
Magna Cum Laude in 1960, Scalia became a Sheldon
Sheldon Fellow of Harvard University, enabling the
future jurist to travel throughout Europe through

Scalia began his legal career at the international law
firm of Jones, Day, Cockely, & Reavis in Cleveland,
Ohio, working there from 1961 to 1967. Getting the
itch to teach law, Scalia resigned from the firm and
became a Professor of Law at the University of
Virginia, moving his young family to Charlottesville.
Public service came next, when Scalia was appointed
by President Richard Nixon to be General Counsel
for the Office of Telecommunications Policy in 1971.
President Nixon then appointed Scalia Assistant Attorney
General for the Office of Legal Counsel. After returning
to the academic world to teach once again, Scalia
returned to Washington when Ronald Reagan nominated
him to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia Circuit, a position which Scalia
joyfully accepted. While there, he continued to burnish
both his conservative record and reputation, which then
garnered him nomination to a seat on the highest court
in the land. Scalia was confirmed by the Senate, 98-0,
in 1986. With is joining the Supreme Court, Scalia became
the first justice of Italian descent to serve on the highest
court in the land.

During his three decades on the Supreme Court, Justice
Scalia lent his voice for the original intent of the founding
fathers to cases regarding abortion, terrorist detainees,
racial preferences in hiring and in admittance to colleges
and universities, criminals' rights, and First Amendment
-related matters, such as criminalizing some kinds of speech
for allegedly being "hateful". Scalia was always the voice of
reason and historical reference in every case he heard and ruled
upon, expressing his opinions with not only crystal clarity
and precision logic, but with fine wit. He was known by
his colleagues on the Court for this as well as for his
"Ninograms", in which he shared his reasoning on some legal
points and urged his colleagues to join him in ruling accordingly.
Scalia could form friendships with political opposites, even on
the Supreme Court; he had a long-standing warm friendship with
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court's most liberal justice.
Scalia could disagree with people over judicial and political matters
but still be friends with them, a rare talent these days.

A man with very few enemies and many friends and admirers,
including people who very seldom agreed with Scalia's legal
and political opinions, Justice Antonin Scalia is already sorely
missed and will be missed even more in time to come. The
Constitution lost a courageous defender and advocate,
conservatives lost a champion for judicial restraint and
constitutional adherence, and the nation lost an outstanding
public servant who loved his work, his country, and the law.
Godspeed, Nino. Rest in Peace.


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