Justice Antonin Scalia was a Mount Rushmore figure in American law.
He led a conservative renaissance on the United States Supreme Court with a towering intellect, a razor-sharp wit, and an eloquent pen.
It's impossible to overstate the profound influence he exerted over American jurisprudence.
Justice Scalia was consummately devoted to the Rule of Law, and his judicial philosophy has influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students. And beyond his jurisprudential legacy, he devoted himself recently to two groundbreaking books aimed at equipping lawyers and judges with insights into legal writing and judicial decision making. Heaven knows I regularly pore over my dog-eared, highlighted copies of Justice Scalia’s brilliant articles and books.
His unswerving devotion to originalism in constitutional interpretation and to textualism in statutory interpretation is now embedded deeply in the contemporary legal culture.
Justice Scalia was authentic in every sense—a judicial force of nature. His ideological opposite, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, once described their treasured camaraderie this way: “I disagreed with most of what he said, but I loved the way he said it.”
Justice Scalia’s passing forces a once-in-a-generation rebalancing on the Supreme Court. And it underscores that nothing spells “legacy” with a capital “L” more than whom a president appoints to the federal bench—particularly the Supreme Court—for a lifetime. Year after year, case after case, Term after Term, the High Court is at the epicenter of the most contentious issues of our day.
Last summer, Justice Scalia was Professor Scalia, teaching one of my LLM courses at Duke Law. He overflowed with vigor and humor, and joined several of us for a rollicking lunch, regaling us with lessons in life and law. When Justice Scalia last visited Austin, to deliver the oath to the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, I remarked to him, “It’s not every day you get to fly from one nation’s capital to another.” And when I introduced him to my six-year-old daughter at a legal conference last year, he was as warm, charming, and gracious as he could be.
Antonin Gregory Scalia was a giant in American law and culture—one of the most consequential jurists in Supreme Court history. Few people are able to singlehandedly alter the course of American history. Justice Antonin Scalia was one of them.
Our Constitution has lost a fierce champion, and our Nation has lost a devoted patriot.