Category Archive 'Justice Antonin Scalia'

01 Mar 2016

Without Scalia

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Ramirez46

14 Feb 2016

Antonin Gregory Scalia (1936-2016)

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Antonin_Scalia

Let’s remember him with some of his best comments.

“A Bill of Rights that means what the majority wants it to mean is worthless.”

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“[There’s] the argument of flexibility and it goes something like this: The Constitution is over 200 years old and societies change. It has to change with society, like a living organism, or it will become brittle and break. But you would have to be an idiot to believe that; the Constitution is not a living organism; it is a legal document. It says something and doesn’t say other things…. [Proponents of the living constitution want matters to be decided] not by the people, but by the justices of the Supreme Court …. They are not looking for legal flexibility, they are looking for rigidity, whether it’s the right to abortion or the right to homosexual activity, they want that right to be embedded from coast to coast and to be unchangeable.”

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“To allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.

If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

22 Jan 2013

Inauguration Fashion Statements

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Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia provoked puzzlement among libs throughout the land by wearing what Gawker described as “a really weird hat” and the New York Daily News as “a beret on steroids.”

The mystery was elucidated by Richmond University of Law Professor Kevin C. Walsh, who explained:

The hat is a custom-made replica of the hat depicted in Holbein’s famous portrait of St. Thomas More. It was a gift from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, Virginia. We presented it to him in November 2010 as a memento of his participation in our 27th annual Red Mass and dinner.

It is not unlikely that Justice Scalia was intentionally making a reference to his own support of religious liberty in connection with the Obama Administration’s attempts to force Catholic institutions to act in opposition to church teachings by mandates requiring funding of employee birth control and abortion.


Hans Holbein, Sir Thomas More, 1527, Frick Collection, New York.

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White tie with dinner jacket.

Even more bizarre was the newly-inaugurated president’s appearance at Inaugural Balls incongruously wearing a white bow tie with a dinner jacket.

There must surely be White House specialists in protocol available to advise the ill-informed on what is and what is not correct in matters of this kind.

One correspondent of a list I read suggested that President Obama may have intentionally chosen a white tie (sometimes worn to indicate status as staff with a dinner jacket at evening events) as a kind of riposte to former President Clinton‘s unkind 2008 remark to the late Senator Kennedy dismissive of Senator Obama’s candidacy: “A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.”

Of course, it also might simply have been a casual expression of modernist contempt for traditional norms and customs.

27 Jun 2008

“The Constitution Means What It Says”

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Randy Barnett, in today’s Wall Street Journal, relishes the results of Heller, and praises Justice Scalia’s work. I love his editorial’s title, which constitutes all by itself an absolutely devastating rejoinder to the jurisprudence of people like Justices Stevens and Breyer.

Justice Scalia’s opinion is the finest example of what is now called “original public meaning” jurisprudence ever adopted by the Supreme Court. This approach stands in sharp contrast to Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissenting opinion that largely focused on “original intent” – the method that many historians employ to explain away the text of the Second Amendment by placing its words in what they call a “larger context.” Although original-intent jurisprudence was discredited years ago among constitutional law professors, that has not stopped nonoriginalists from using “original intent” – or the original principles “underlying” the text – to negate its original public meaning.

Of course, the originalism of both Justices Scalia’s and Stevens’s opinions are in stark contrast with Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion, in which he advocates balancing an enumerated constitutional right against what some consider a pressing need to prohibit its exercise. Guess which wins out in the balancing? As Justice Scalia notes, this is not how we normally protect individual rights, and was certainly not how Justice Breyer protected the individual right of habeas corpus in the military tribunals case decided just two weeks ago.

So what larger lessons does Heller teach? First, the differing methods of interpretation employed by the majority and the dissent demonstrate why appointments to the Supreme Court are so important. In the future, we should be vetting Supreme Court nominees to see if they understand how Justice Scalia reasoned in Heller and if they are committed to doing the same.

We should also seek to get a majority of the Supreme Court to reconsider its previous decisions or “precedents” that are inconsistent with the original public meaning of the text. This shows why elections matter – especially presidential elections – and why we should vet our politicians to see if they appreciate how the Constitution ought to be interpreted.

Good legal scholarship was absolutely crucial to this outcome. No justice is capable of producing the historical research and analysis upon which Justice Scalia relied. Brilliant as it was in its execution, his opinion rested on the work of many scholars of the Second Amendment, as I am sure he would be the first to acknowledge.

26 Jun 2008

Supreme Court Affirms Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms

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As predicted, Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, which was naturally decided by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his capacity as decisive swing vote.

On first glance, I would say that the Court’s ruling primarily represents a strong rebuke to intellectually farcical sophistry and the kinds of whimsical and creative legal analysis which divorce themselves from the Constitution’s historical background, the expressed views and intentions of the framers, commentaries on the Constitution, and the entirety of history before 1932.

Justice Scalia writes at length, and with ill-concealed contempt, for efforts to eliminate the individual right to keep and bear arms by facile manipulation of the prefatory “well-regulated militia” clause, happily following the jurisprudential practice of recent decades of including a thorough and comprehensive survey of the relevant history.

And he concludes:

There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both the text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms.

But, no sooner does Justice Scalia arrive at his bold conclusion than he begins retreating from its implications and striving actively to limit its practical consequences.

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. …

Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of smallarms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.

In the end, the ruling merely affirms the existence of the individual right to keep and bears arms, and strikes down the District of Columbia’s ban on handgun possession in the home and its requirement that lawful firearms kept in a home be inoperable. It specifically declines to address licensing requirements (which Heller failed to challenge). Insofar as the Court affirms a right of self defense, it has done so only with respect to one’s home.

The moderation of Scalia’s opinion is likely to make its power as a decision stronger rather than weaker though, and District of Columbia v. Heller signals a major reversal in the direction of Constitutional Law at the Supreme Court level.

25 Jun 2008

Reading the Tea Leaves on Heller

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Tom Goldstein at the SCOTUS blog:

There is very little information that can be gleaned with confidence about the authorship of the remaining opinions from the Term.

It does look exceptionally likely that Justice Scalia is writing the principal opinion for the Court in Heller – the D.C. guns case. That is the only opinion remaining from the sitting and he is the only member of the Court not to have written a majority opinion from the sitting. … So, that’s a good sign for advocates of a strong individual rights conception of the Second Amendment and a bad sign for D.C.

It would certainly be nice if he’s right.


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