Antonin Scalia, Justice of the Supreme Court, Dies at 79


Antonin Scalia, Justice of the Supreme Court, Dies at 79 by lawyer and Supreme Court correspondent of the New York Times, Adam Liptak

Justice Antonin Scalia, whose transformative legal theories, vivid writing and outsize personality made him a leader of a conservative intellectual renaissance in his three decades on the Supreme Court, was found dead on Saturday at a resort in West Texas. He was 79.

“He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in a statement confirming Justice Scalia’s death. “His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”

The cause of death was not immediately released. A spokeswoman for the United States Marshals Service, which sent personnel to the scene, said there was nothing to indicate the death was the result of anything other than natural causes.

Justice Scalia began his service on the court as an outsider known for caustic dissents that alienated even potential allies. But his theories, initially viewed as idiosyncratic, gradually took hold, and not only on the right and not only in the courts.

He was, Judge Richard A. Posner wrote in the New Republic in 2011, “the most influential justice of the last quarter-century.” Justice Scalia was a champion of originalism, the theory of constitutional interpretation that seeks to apply the understanding of those who drafted and ratified the Constitution. In Justice Scalia’s hands, originalism generally led to outcomes that pleased political conservatives, but not always. His approach was helpful to criminal defendants in cases involving sentencing and the cross-examination of witnesses.

Justice Scalia also disdained the use of legislative history – statements from members of Congress about the meaning and purposes of laws – in the judicial interpretation of statutes. He railed against vague laws that did not give potential defendants fair warning of what conduct was criminal. He preferred bright-line rules to legal balancing tests, and he was sharply critical of Supreme Court opinions that did not provide lower courts and litigants with clear guidance.

All of these views took shape in dissents. Over time, they came to influence and in many cases dominate the debate at the Supreme Court, in lower courts, among lawyers and in the legal academy.

Read the full article here.

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