The people of the United States of America have lost an unmatched jurist.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away on February 13, 2016. The Justice was found in his room at a Texas ranch; reports indicate that he died peacefully in his sleep.
Antonin Gregory Scalia’s distinguished legal career included experience at law firms, professorships at multiple law schools, and service in the executive branch of the federal government. President Ronald Reagan appointed Scalia to a judgeship on the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1982. In 1986, President Reagan appointed Justice Scalia to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States; he served on the Court for the rest of his life.
Justice Scalia was known for his originalist approach to constitutional interpretation. (Originalists interpret the Constitution by analyzing the meaning of the text at the time the Constitution became effective.) Thus, Justice Scalia argued against the prevailing liberal view of the Constitution as a “living document,” susceptible to new interpretations based upon the changing norms of American society. In 2013, Justice Scalia memorably stated that the Constitution is “‘not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead.’” According to Jeffrey Rosen of the National Constitution Center, Justice Scalia “was one of the most influential justices of the 20th century and changed the terms of constitutional debate. As Justice Elena Kagan said when she was dean of Harvard Law School, ‘His views on textualism and originalism, his views on the role of judges in our society, on the practice of judging, have really transformed the terms of legal debate in this country. He is the justice who has had the most important impact over the years on how we think and talk about law.’”
For conservatives, Justice Scalia’s ongoing battle against activist judges’ misuse of the Constitution to promote their favored causes made him a hero. However, Justice Scalia was known not only for his defense of the Constitution, but also for his unique writing style. While Justice Scalia often aggressively criticized opposing views, he did so in a readable and engaging manner. The editors of National Review call Justice Scalia “[by] far the most eloquent and effective writer of judicial opinions in the past 60 years of Supreme Court history.” Justice Scalia was also a notable orator; recalling a Scalia speech, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—his Supreme Court colleague, ideological opponent, and close friend—once said, “‘I disagreed with most of what he said, but I loved the way he said it.’”
In addition to being a legal giant, Justice Scalia was a man of deep faith. As Christians and conservatives across the United States celebrate his life and mourn his death, we should take heed to his words: “‘Devout Christians are destined to be regarded as fools in modern society. We are fools for Christ’s sake. We must pray for courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world… Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ.’”
Justice Scalia is survived by his wife, Maureen, by their nine children, and by 36 grandchildren. Americans are a freer people because of Justice Scalia’s life and work. New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation thanks the Lord for Justice Antonin Scalia. In light of the ongoing controversy concerning the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice, we also pray that Justice Scalia’s successor will share his principles and advance his legacy.