“In statutory construction, he emphasized the text and the text alone,” professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Baltimore, Garrett Epps wrote in The Atlantic.
Justice Antonin Scalia was credited by many of his critics and supporters as an outstanding conservative voice on the supreme court who resurrected constitutional “originalism.” Scalia, 79, died on Feb. 12, at a luxury ranch in West Texas, according to NPR.
“On behalf of the Court and retired Justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. “His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”
Dr. David Van Heemst of Olivet’s Political Science Department described Scalia’s originalist approach as a viewpoint that regards “the words in the Constitution as fixed truths.” The justice would look at the Constitution through the eyes of the United States’ 18th century founding fathers and rejected the notion that the Constitution was a “living” document in which the interpretation of it could change over time.
The purpose of the Constitution is to spell out the specific limits to governmental authority. That is important because limiting governmental power is the key in terms of insuring individual liberty for all Americans,” Heemst wrote in an email. “He connected the structure of our government to America’s greatness one year when he was speaking to ONU students at Federal Seminar when he declared, ‘Structure is destiny.’ He meant, the structure of our government has contributed greatly to the amazing success/destiny of the U.S.”
According to Heemst, Scalia’s most important decisions regarded state’s rights, abortion, the death penalty, and separation of powers.
“He was an advocate of state’s rights, supported a pro-life position, supported the death penalty, and advocated clear lines of boundary between the various branches of the government,” Heemst wrote. “He was probably best known for his dissents. In his dissents, he was often aggressive in his word choice and tone against the majority’s logic.”
Not only was Scalia a gifted orator, but the staunch conservative was friends with one of the most liberal justices on the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“His friendship with her tells us how deeply he valued friendships and collegiality on the Supreme Court,” Heemst wrote. “Ginsberg is arguably the most liberal member of the Court and he was arguably its most conservative member. Yet, they were close friends. Not only did they spend time together while they were at the Supreme Court itself, but they’d also attend social functions together such as the opera. They also went on an elephant viewing trip to India!”
Scalia’s life and death was controversial. President Barack Obama now has the opportunity to create a liberal majority on the Supreme Court—an event that has not occurred in decades, according to The Washington Post.
“Groups on both sides of the political divide are raising money and marshaling political ammunition for a protracted fight over what kind of legal thinkers should sit on the nation’s highest court,” Post reporters Juliet Eilperin and Robert Barnes wrote. “Civil rights groups, labor unions and environmentalists are preparing for a faceoff with a conservative coalition of social activists and business interests. Forces on both sides are conducting polls and focus groups and are mobilizing their members with online appeals.”
If there is one idea concerning Scalia that cannot be contested, it is that he has left his mark on the Supreme Court and American politics.
“While Scalia was not the first originalist, he was unbelievably significant to originalist jurisprudence,” Heemst wrote. “In fact, he is widely perceived as resuscitating this entire approach to constitutional jurisprudence.In this regard, he has an unbelievably enormous influence in current and future conservative judicial philosophy.”
—Nathan DiCamillo, Life and Culture Editor