Of all the judges to serve on the Supreme Court, none may be more controversial than the late Associate Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia. Known for his theory of “originalism” in interpreting constitutional law, Scalia was known to turn heads with unforeseeable rulings and behavior. This sample history essay explores the life a death of Justice Scalia.
Justice Antonin Scalia’s life story
Scalia’s life experience contributed to his achievement and successes as a Supreme Court Justice. He was born in 1936 in Trenton New Jersey to Salvadore Eugene and Catherine Panaro Scalia (Antonin Scalia). His father was an immigrant from Italy who traveled to America as a teenager through Ellis Island and soon received a degree in college education that was used to obtain a professorship in romance languages at Brooklyn College.
His childhood played a founding role in shaping his personality and disposition as an adult. He writes that as a child he was an avid reader always with a book in hand or reading something in Italian, Spanish, or French (Murphy 11). His father and mother both impressed deeply the value of a healthy work ethic and moral responsibility. The father-professor Scalia, an immigrant to the U.S. admonished Scalia early in life:
“Bear in mind that brains and learning, like muscle and physical skill, are articles of commerce. They are Bought and sold. You can hire them by the year or by the hour. The only thing in the world not for sale is character” (Murphy 11).
Scalia as a student
Despite this jewel of instruction, Antonin received the majority of his lessons from Mrs. Scalia. It was her interest in her son which kept him on the right track in and out of school. His friends, organizational commitments, and other activities were all overseen by Mrs. Scalia. In school Scalia succeeded most excellently. As a
As a student, he was quite gifted with a strong academic track record. As an only child, Antonin admits to being spoiled rotten but that overall he had a fairly normal childhood (Murphy 12). Nevertheless, he still did get into trouble quite frequently, something his post-mortem history hardly contradicts (Murphy 12).
Christian faith and moral beliefs
He did, however, come from and possess a strong faith in the Roman Catholic and was raised with strong Christian ethics. Raised in a highly religious Italian family, Catholicism was a guiding faith for the Scalias which gave them a sense of eternity and stability midst a world of chaotic change. It was to this spiritual reality that Scalia felt his life was claimed to both by birthright, as a baptized Catholic, and by the devotional utterance of prayer which formed a regular part of Scalia’s early life (Murphy 15).
He further was developed in Catholicism at the Jesuit prep school Xavier High wherein he also joined the Junior Reserve Officer’ Training Corps which helped to build his leadership skills as well. One hilarious learning principle bestowed upon the late judge while in a literature class which followed him into his career is that of the Shakespeare Principle.
According to one of his teachers, Father Tom Matthews, when reading Shakespeare, Shakespeare is not on trial to the readers’ criticisms, rather, it is the reader who is on trial (given the genius that is Shakespeare). Scalia stated that he:
“always thought that’s a very good prescription for life” and thus most likely affected his own decision processes in and out of the courtroom (Scalia 17).
This conservative attitude is no doubt what helped him to be a proponent of the right.
Scalia’s start in law
Scalia’s legal career began in the law offices of Jones, Day, Cockley & Reavis in Cleveland, Ohio in 1961 where he was highly praised. He would have made partner in the agency however he wanted to teach, like his father, and thus took a position as a professor in the University of Virginia Law School (Antonin Scalia).
His political career began in 1972 when he took the general counsel position for the Office of Telecommunications Policy, appointed by President Richard Nixon, which he used to make key regulations for cable television. Following the government corruption situation in the White House and the aftermath of the Watergate scandal of 1974, Scalia received the role of Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Council (Antonin Scalia).
Here, he testified to congressional committees to cover for the Ford administration and made his sole case before the United States’s Supreme Court with the Alfred Dunhill of London, Inc. v. Republic of Cuba. Thanks to Scalia’s argumentative skills, the U.S. Government won the case (Antonin Scalia). His ascendancy to supreme court Justice came on behalf President Ronald Reagan via the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He took the position in 1982 leaving behind a teaching post at the University of Chicago Law School (Antonin Scalia).
Scalia’s Supreme Court career
As a Supreme Court judge, Scalia was known for leading the conservative revival that took place in the late 90s. Some find his ideas regarding the interpretation of the constitution and the law it proscribes to be so persuasively effective as to offer a new direction for the role that the American Government may play in the protection of Americans’ personal rights and liberties (Brisbin & Brisbin, 2016).
Analysis and commentators on the legal system and its authorities find that Scalia’s case votes and the jurisprudence used tend to align with that of contemporary conservative values. When voting, he consistently shows a favor for the government, the Bill of Rights, due process, and privacy over and against the claims of unions and the extension of the federal government’s judicial power (Brisbin & Brisbin, 2016).
Borrowed leadership styles of Antonin Scalia
Others find his leadership style similar to that of Edmund Burke since he placed such a strong emphasis upon the founding father’s interpretation of the Constitution when ruling on criminal and civil law cases.
Of import to the man and the contribution he made towards the country are the interpretive principles that he used to decipher case law and constitutional code. Textualists argue that Scalia more so than any other justice evaluated the context in which legislature drafted their statues with simply their “plain meaning” of statutory language (Brisbin & Brisbin, 2016).
In so doing, Scalia made a stand against the standard of active judicial policy making wherein result-oriented legal logic was used to ignore texts and the appropriate use of legal craft. For this attitude, Scalia is “perhaps more responsible than any American alive for the mainstreaming of conservative ideas about jurisprudence” (Senior). At the heart of this understanding of jurisprudence is the doctrine of Originalism.
The data reported thus far on Scalia indicates he was a complicated person, as a man of faith who also had his share of indulgences. He was intriguingly one of the people who did the majority of the challenging as a Justice who first forwarded the notion of originalism however there are some fair challenges that can be posed to Scalia himself.
For instance, why did he take so many vacations when accepting them clearly could have an impact upon his decision to rule on critical cases? Furthermore, how does the acceptance of such funding affect his faith as a Catholic person who is supposed to be dedicated towards the preservation of soul and by association society?
Antonin Scalia. Biography, 2016. Web. Feb. 27, 2016.
Brisbin, Richard & Brisbin, Richard. Justice Antonin Scalia and the Conservative Revival. JHU Press, 1998. Web. March 1, 2016.
Cyran, Robert. Justice Scalia’s Death Prompts Dow Chemical to Settle Lawsuit. NY Times. Web. Mar. 1, 2016.
Dayen, David. Antonin Scalia: The Billion-Dollar Supreme Court Justice. The Intercept. Web. Mar. 1, 2016.
Lipton, Eric. Scalia Took Dozens of Trips Funded by Private Sponsors. NY Times. Web. Mar. 1, 2016.
Scalia Defends Originalism as Best Methodology for Judging Law. University of Virginia School of Law. 2010. Web. Mar. 1, 2016.
Senior, Jennifer. In Conservation: Antonin Scalia. NyMag. Web. Mar. 1, 2016.