Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead while on a hunting trip in Texas. He was 79.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement that said, in part, ""Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law."
Antonin Scalia, the longest-serving member of the current U.S. Supreme Court and a flamboyant conservative voice in American jurisprudence.
Scalia was nominated Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan and took his seat on Sept. 26, 1986, replacing William Rehnquist, who was appointed Chief Justice upon Warren Burger's retirement. Scalia was unanimously approved at age 50, the youngest justice on the Court at that time.
A graduate of Georgetown and Harvard Law School, Scalia was born in Trenton, NJ, on March 11, 1936, the son of a Sicilian immigrant who taught romance languages at Brooklyn College. His mother, also of Italian descent, taught in public elementary school until he was born. He was an only child, unusual in a Catholic family of that time.
Scalia began his career practicing law in Cleveland, then taught law at the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago. In 1972, President Richard Nixon appointed Scalia to a general counsel position for the Office of Telecommunications Policy, beginning his career in public service.
He went on to work for presidents Nixon and Gerald Ford, and President Ronald Reagan named him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1982.
Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court four years later.
Scalia, a Constitutional originalist, proved to be one of the most prominent and influential legal minds of his era - and one of the most beloved and hated justices in the history of the court. He wrote multiple books and was the subject of many more.
He had a distinctive writing style, known for his witty, scathing and straightforward opinions, especially his dissents. An excellent - and hilarious - example is his dissent in the case of PGA Tour v. Martin (2001), in which the court ruled that disabled golfer Casey Martin must be allowed to ride in a golf cart rather than walk between shots, as PGA rules at that time dictated:
If one assumes, however, that the PGA TOUR has some legal obligation to play classic, Platonic golf - and if one assumes the correctness of all the other wrong turns the Court has made to get to this point - then we Justices must confront what is indeed an awesome responsibility. It has been rendered the solemn duty of the Supreme Court of the United States, laid upon it by Congress in pursuance of the Federal Government's power “[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States,” to decide What Is Golf. I am sure that the Framers of the Constitution, aware of the 1457 edict of King James II of Scotland prohibiting golf because it interfered with the practice of archery, fully expected that sooner or later the paths of golf and government, the law and the links, would once again cross, and that the judges of this august Court would someday have to wrestle with that age-old jurisprudential question, for which their years of study in the law have so well prepared them: Is someone riding around a golf course from shot to shot really a golfer? The answer, we learn, is yes. The Court ultimately concludes, and it will henceforth be the Law of the Land, that walking is not a “fundamental” aspect of golf.
Scalia wrote as he adjudicated, from the viewpoint that he was always right, of which he was truly convinced. He was uncompromising in his views, preferring to write a stinging dissent rather than accept less in order to win a majority.
One of history's most vehement proponents of the originalist interpretation of the Constitution, Scalia believed the Constitution should be interpreted as it was when it was written, according to the intent of those who wrote and ratified it. Original Intent is a school of constutional thought held by political and legal conservatives.
Scalia spoke out against “judicial activism,” when judges take the values of contemporary society into consideration when they interpreted the Constitution. He believed the Constitution was not there to facilitate change, but to impede it.
His reputation as the conservative anchor of the court is well-founded, though he did vote with liberals on a few significant decisions. Among them was the 1984 case that qualified flag burning an expression protected under the First Amendment.
He offended many conservatives when he voted against abortion rights, not on the grounds that it was morally wrong, but rather that it was not a constitutionally protected right. He said each state should be able to make its own abortion law, but the federal government had no authority in the matter.
Nevertheless, his voting record is overwhelmingly conservative. He consistently opposed actions that made distinctions based on gender, sexuality or race. He opposed affirmative action. He called the Voting Rights Act “perpetuation of racial entitlement” and dissented in the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage.
Scalia and his wife, Maureen McCarthy Scalia, had nine children - five boys and four girls.