On February 13th, 2016, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in Texas. In his almost 30 year service in the court, he was a controversial, but provocative figure in modern history.
Born on March 11th, 1936 in Trenton, New Jersey, Scalia spent much of his life dedicated to law. He went to Georgetown University and moved up to Harvard Law School to obtain his law degree. From there, he spent six years in a law firm before teaching law at the University of Virginia. After that, he began working in government jobs, starting with the general counsel of the Office of Telecommunications Policy and later as chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States.
As for family life, he grew up as an only child and garnered the attention of his parents and their siblings. He was also a devout Catholic, to which he says Catholicism has influenced his legal philosophy.
He was nominated by President Richard M. Nixon in 1974 to be assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel. He was confirmed by the Senate. Just 12 years later, he was nominated and sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice.
Throughout the years, he has been labeled a strict constitutionalist, but calls himself “an originalist” which which sought to interpret the Constitution as it was understood at the time of its adoption. Later on, however, Justice Scalia was more willing to negotiate at the expense of his doctrine.
Scalia was seen by many as significant to the last quarter century of American history and for a good reason. Then Senator Joe Biden, who was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said “the vote that I most regret of all 15,000 votes I have cast as a senator was to confirm Judge Scalia because he was so effective.”
Justice Scalia has been crucial to many Supreme Court cases of recent history, including the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which was crucial to the de-regulation of campaign finances (which he voted for). He also voted in favor of making minority votes vulnerable (Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder Attorney General, Et Al.) and electing George W. Bush into the presidency over Al Gore (Bush, Et Al. v. Gore, Et Al.).
However, he also voted against having the government have invasive home searches (Kyllo v. United States) and having censors on violent video games (Brown, Governor of California, Et Al. v. Entertainment Merchants Association, Et Al.). One of his most prominent opinions comes from the District of Columbia, Et Al. v. Heller case, in which he defended the Second Amendment and its guarantee for the right to bear arms.
While his legacy remains, the election’s stance on the death of the Supreme Court Justice has created a cataclysm in the presidential race. In Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, it says “…[the president] shall have power,… with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court…” However, the Senate, led to majority leader Mitch McConnell, declared that the Senate will not nominate anybody under any circumstances and that the next President should be the one to nominate a successor. This has sparked a debate on the campaign trail, with the GOP defending McConnell and the Democrats defending the President. Because of the clash, many cases have become tied 4-4, therefore favoring the defendant of each case.
Despite all of the havoc regarding the nominee, Scalia has made his mark on American law and even comedy. Stephen Colbert recalls his only encounter with Justice Scalia during the White House Correspondents Dinner on The Late Show, saying “I will forever be grateful for that moment of human contact he gave me… I salute you.”
And so shall America.