Saturday, February 13, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia Dies at 79

Justice Antonin Scalia, the senior-most Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, has died. He was 79. Scalia served on the Court for 30 years, following stints on the D.C. Circuit and time as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

Obviously, this comes with significant political and legal ramifications. Not only was Justice Scalia considered the intellectual powerhouse of the Court's right wing, his departure converts a 5-4 conservative majority into an equally divided Court. Even if the Senate refuses to confirm any Obama nominee, this matters -- in the event of an evenly divided vote, lower-court decisions stand 

Still, there will be time enough to delve into the gritty, necessary task of judicial politics later. For now, it's worth reflecting on the mark Justice Scalia has left on the legal landscape. It is considerable. I think there are very few law students who, exhausted from slogging through some of the more stultifying prose that often graces the United States Reports, did not find Justice Scalia's writing to be a breath of fresh air. He was witty, often cuttingly so, and his dissent in PGA Tour v. Martin may be the funniest Supreme Court opinion ever written. Writing aside, Scalia had a flair for taking bold stands that demanded a response if not agreement, and which often set the tone for what would become the consensus conservative position in the years to come.

My friend Kim Smith put it best: "Antonin Scalia was often brilliant and occasionally right." There are worse epitaphs for a Supreme Court justice to have. Rest in peace, and condolences to his friends and family.

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