Justice Antonin Scalia, leaves behind “originalist” legacy

February 17th, 2016


Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia died Saturday, Feb. 13 of natural causes at a ranch in West Texas, according to The New York Times. Scalia was married and had nine children. He was a devout Catholic and in regard to his children said, “Being a devout Catholic means you have children when God gives them to you, and you raise them,” according to The New York Times.


Scalia graduated top of his class from Georgetown University, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. Sara Schiavoni, who teaches in the  John Carroll University political science department and specializes in judicial selection, says that with Scalia, “There was never a question about his intellectual firepower, about his credentials.”


Schiavoni says that Scalia changed the court with his style of oral argument. “Before Scalia joined the bench, the Court wasn’t quite as engaged during oral argument and he changed that. He was a fire brander in oral argument and kind of let loose the court so that now it seems to be the new normal.”


Scalia was known for his originalism and biting dissents. He used words like “argle-bargle” and “jiggery-pokery,” according to NPR.


Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were “best buddies” according to Ginsburg. Although the two differed greatly on ideologies and often were on opposite sides in court rulings, they maintained a very close friendship. Ginsburg, often writing for the majority opinion when Scalia was writing the dissent, said that his writings made hers better, “Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots- the ‘applesauce’ and ‘argle bargle’- and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion,” she wrote, according to USA Today.


Scalia was thought to be one of the most conservative judges on the bench, however, Schiavoni disagrees. “He was conservative and very conservative on a lot of cases that get a lot of attention. With his dissents on the Obamacare decision and some of the immigration cases and Lawrence v. Texas, but there were a lot of cases that he did not tow that line, that conservative line.”


The cases pertain to ignore the Fourth Amendment and defendant’s rights. The example she gives are ones dealing with thermal imaging of houses that would reveal whether or not a house is growing marijuana or not. He believed that was unconstitutional.


Mere hours after the death of Justice Scalia, Republicans in Congress said President Barack Obama should not nominate a replacement for Scalia until the next president is elected, according to The Hill. Obama did not take their advice and said in a press conference that he would nominate a new one “in due time.”


As for the upcoming court rulings that are being debated in the Supreme Court, they will continue on as normal unless the court decides they want the case to be re-argued with a full court. If the court decides to continue hearing the case and make a ruling and the results are a 4-4 tie, then the lower court ruling will be upheld.


Editor’s Note: Information from The New York Times, NBC News, USA Today, NPR and assistant professor Sara Schiavoni was used in this report.