Justice Scalia’s “Greatest Hits”
Current and retired Supreme Court Justices, politicians, legal scholars, attorneys and journalists are among those who have paid tribute to Justice Antonin Scalia.
At Thomson Reuters, some of us had the honor and privilege of working with Justice Scalia to publish Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, his influential book with Bryan A. Garner on deriving the meaning of authoritative texts, as well as his first book with Mr. Garner, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.
The National Law Journal (subscription required) covered the Justice’s trip to the Far East in January, where, among other activities, he gave presentations about Reading Law and held book signings with Mr. Garner. Joining their Asia trip was Tom Leighton, Thomson Reuters vice president of Legal Editorial Operations, who has known and worked with the Justice for years. In fact, you can read his account of the trip here.
The public paid their respects to Justice Scalia in Washington, D.C. on Friday, and his funeral was held on Saturday. Today, we offer up our own tribute. Culled from Thomson Reuters Westlaw are some of Scalia’s “greatest hits,” a nod to his wit, sense of humor, and most memorable dissents and opinions during his nearly 30-year tenure on the bench.
- The majority’s reasoning is “Pure applesauce,” and “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”
— Dissenting in King v. Burwell (2015), that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) authorized tax credits for health insurance purchased from federally-established exchanges in states that did not establish their own exchanges.
- “If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”
— Dissenting in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
- “Frequently an issue of this sort will come before the Court clad, so to speak, in sheep’s clothing: the potential of the asserted principle to effect important change in the equilibrium of power is not immediately evident, and must be discerned by a careful and perceptive analysis. But this wolf comes as a wolf.”
— Dissenting in Morrison v. Olson (1988), which upheld a federal statute authorizing the appointment of independent counsel to investigate and prosecute high-ranking government officials for violations of federal criminal laws.
- “Dispensing with confrontation because testimony is obviously reliable is akin to dispensing with jury trial because a defendant is obviously guilty. This is not what the Sixth Amendment prescribes.”
— Writing for the majority in Crawford v. Washington (2004), which changed the Court’s analysis for determining when the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause requires that the prosecution present as a witness the person who made an out-of-court statement.
- “We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution. … But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”
— Writing for the majority in the Court’s 5-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), which held that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms, and protected handgun possession for self-defense in the home.
His dedication to the Court and his profound influence on the law cannot be overstated. His legacy will be lasting, and he will be missed.
This post was written by Loren Singer, Principal Attorney Editor, Thomson Reuters.