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Justice Antonin Scalia has died.


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2 hours ago, Leon Troutsky said:

Scalia visited campus here several years ago to give a talk to students.  What impressed me was how approachable he was and how much time he spent talking with students after his talk.  He didn't just collect a paycheck and hasta.  

I met him in law school when he spoke to the Christian Legal Society at our school.  I found him exactly the same, and I would add, brilliant and charming.  Just a fantastic guy who didn't have to spend a lot of time talking to a bunch of law students, but did anyway.  I'll add that he did not simply act this way with like minded students and professors -- he took hard questions from people who disagreed with him vehemently, including a buddy of mine who afterwards said he hoped he got pulled over by a state trooper wearing mirror sunglasses and had to endure a cavity search, and was gracious in doing so.  

I remember very clearly the theme of his speech that day -- "the Christian as Cretin."  That may seem odd coming from him, but he was making an etymological play on words between the roots of the word (from the French chretien, which derived from Latin and meant essentially "people within Christendom") to connect the dead etymology to the current view of Christians as fools, and then connecting that to the notion of a "fool for Christ."  I remember being struck at how sharp he was to go to great lengths to formulate an intellectual argument, when a lot of others might have just jumped into the "poor me, people don't like Christians" model and railed against society and the media.  He didn't.  In fact, he did the opposite, and argued that as Christians and lawyers, we have a duty to our neighbor to display intelligence, treat others well even when they do not treat us well, and to always remember who we are in Christ.  The other thing that struck me was he knew his audience -- he wasn't speaking just to a group of attorneys, but to a Christian legal organization, and so he gave a speech centered on Christianity instead of one centered on the law or politics or jurisprudence.

I know others will disagree, but I think he was a national treasure.  Memory eternal.

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5 minutes ago, atl falcon 89 said:

Didn't always agree with his politics but Scalia was one of those you knew who had courage of his convictions.

Not to hijack the thread but WOW did the stakes just get higher for October.  What is this potentially 3 seats that could be filled by the next administration? 

I started another thread to talk about the politics of the situation because I also didn't want to hijack this thread.  [That's not a scold, btw.  Just noting it for others.]

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7 hours ago, JDaveG said:

I met him in law school when he spoke to the Christian Legal Society at our school.  I found him exactly the same, and I would add, brilliant and charming.  Just a fantastic guy who didn't have to spend a lot of time talking to a bunch of law students, but did anyway.  I'll add that he did not simply act this way with like minded students and professors -- he took hard questions from people who disagreed with him vehemently, including a buddy of mine who afterwards said he hoped he got pulled over by a state trooper wearing mirror sunglasses and had to endure a cavity search, and was gracious in doing so.  

I remember very clearly the theme of his speech that day -- "the Christian as Cretin."  That may seem odd coming from him, but he was making an etymological play on words between the roots of the word (from the French chretien, which derived from Latin and meant essentially "people within Christendom") to connect the dead etymology to the current view of Christians as fools, and then connecting that to the notion of a "fool for Christ."  I remember being struck at how sharp he was to go to great lengths to formulate an intellectual argument, when a lot of others might have just jumped into the "poor me, people don't like Christians" model and railed against society and the media.  He didn't.  In fact, he did the opposite, and argued that as Christians and lawyers, we have a duty to our neighbor to display intelligence, treat others well even when they do not treat us well, and to always remember who we are in Christ.  The other thing that struck me was he knew his audience -- he wasn't speaking just to a group of attorneys, but to a Christian legal organization, and so he gave a speech centered on Christianity instead of one centered on the law or politics or jurisprudence.

I know others will disagree, but I think he was a national treasure.  Memory eternal.

He came to my law school every year I was there (apparently free trips to Southern California appeal to everyone).  He taught a two or three session lecture every summer on oral advocacy techniques and appellate brief writing.  His class was amazing, and he was as approachable as any professor who had a regular office on campus.  In addition, he would always have a forum/debate while he was there with extensive Q&A from the student body.  Every... Single... Time... Someone would try to catch him on one of his inconsistent applications of textualism, and he always had a funny but not insulting response to these predictable attacks.  He was not a perfect justice, even if you ascribed to his politics, but he was not the evil ideologue he is painted to be by those who disagreed with his opinions.  

He was not a perfect judge, and he was not above partisianship, but he brought balance to the Supreme Court in the same way Ruth Bater-Ginsberg did.  Oddly enough, the only justice who ever appeared with him while I was in school was RBG, and they professed to be the closest friends on the bench.  I would have loved to see them shooting hoops on the highest court in the land.

He will be missed, and the written word of the Supreme Court, whether you agree with it or not, his diminished by his passing.

 

 

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I saw an interview with him from a few years ago where he talked about his view of textualism and how it relates to democracy.  Something that I think most people miss about him is that he took the notion of democracy very seriously.  He was talking about the death penalty, for example, and noted that it existed when the Constitution was written so it could not be "cruel and unusual" punishment.  Then he talked about how the public is perfectly free to ban it themselves through democratic elections if that's what they want.  I think that a lot of people miss the depth of his thinking when they look at his judicial philosophy.  I still disagree with his viewpoint, but it's a lot more sophisticated and thoughtful than people (right and left) realize.

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1 hour ago, Leon Troutsky said:

I saw an interview with him from a few years ago where he talked about his view of textualism and how it relates to democracy.  Something that I think most people miss about him is that he took the notion of democracy very seriously.  He was talking about the death penalty, for example, and noted that it existed when the Constitution was written so it could not be "cruel and unusual" punishment.  Then he talked about how the public is perfectly free to ban it themselves through democratic elections if that's what they want.  I think that a lot of people miss the depth of his thinking when they look at his judicial philosophy.  I still disagree with his viewpoint, but it's a lot more sophisticated and thoughtful than people (right and left) realize.

If you read enough of his dissents that comes through, though if it's the interview I'm thinking of (Piers Morgan?), it came through better in that interview than anywhere else I've seen.

Scalia's view was that the political branches exist to allow the will of the people to become law.  The judiciary exists to exert those rights expressly enshrined in the Constitution and, more to the point, none others.  One can disagree with him on that, but I find a lot of the disagreement to be directed toward political ends rather than Constitutional principles. Whatever one thinks of Scalia, he was principled, and he truly and honestly believed that democracy could not long survive in a government where, as he was so fond of putting it, "nine unelected justices" can trump the will of the people as exercised through the political branches.

History will see if he's right.  Day by day, I fear he is.  Though I will say one huge area of disagreement I have with him and his cohorts is on money in politics, and in that same Piers Morgan interview, he defended the notion that you couldn't put limits on money, because money is speech.  For all of his great understanding of the danger of a judicial fiefdom, Scalia seemed blind to the idea that one could have a corporate fiefdom exercised by pouring money into the political process.  I find that dichotomy unsettling.  If for no other reason than it reminds me that nobody is perfect, and the Citizens United ruling, which I was okay with at the time, in hindsight has helped create exactly that oligarchical situation Scalia feared.

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Here is a fantastic quote I ran across that encapsulates Justice Scalia's philosophy:

"Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society."

-- Antonin Scalia

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