The Legacy of Justice Antonin Scalia: Remembering a Conservative Legal Titan’s Impact on the Law
Americans lost a legal titan with the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. Scalia believed that the Constitution and the laws should be interpreted based on their actual text and original public meaning, minimizing the potential impact of a judge’s personal views or biases on the law. Thus, constitutional provisions could be discerned through dictionaries from the Founding Era, the common-law tradition, and foundational documents like Blackstone’s Commentaries to understand what things meant at the time the Constitution was written. Using these methods, in his nearly 30 years on the Court, Antonin Scalia worked tirelessly to clarify criminal law and procedure, advance structural aspects of the Constitution like separation of powers that safeguard our liberties, and harmonize the Court’s Religion Clauses jurisprudence with the text and history of the Constitution. His method of judging not only affected the course of the law, but also influenced his fellow justices and a generation of law students, lawyers, and lower court judges who interpret the Constitution as it was written and not how they wish it had been written.