Remembering Justice Antonin Scalia
Antonin Scalia was not your typical “cookie cutter” Supreme Court Justice. Scalia knew what he wanted right out of the gate.
With the election of Ronald Reagan in November of 1980, Scalia was first rejected for the position of Solicitor General of the United States, but was offered a position on the Chicago-based United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in early 1982.
He declined it, hoping to be appointed to the highly influential United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit).
Three Supreme Court Justices have come from the DC Circuit Court, including Justice Thomas, Justice Ginsberg, and Chief Justice Roberts. Scalia’s replacement will probably come from the same court.
Reagan finally did appoint Scalia to the DC Court and he was confirmed and appointed in 1982.
Scalia To The Supreme Court
During his service on the DC Court, Scalia had been noticed in Washington. According to the The New York Times, Reagan officials claimed they, "liked virtually everything they saw and ... listed him as a leading Supreme Court prospect.”
With Burger’s retirement, Reagan needed a new chief justice and nominated Associate Justice William Rehnquist to the position.
I remember watching Ted Kennedy rake Rehnquist over the coals during his confirmation hearing about such things as minority voting rights.
In a demonstration of diversity, Reagan wanted to appoint the first Italian-American justice. Plus Scalia, at the time, was 10 years younger than the other potential candidate Robert Bork. Bork was rejected due to some controversial writing he had published about individual rights.
Scalia Confirmed to Supreme Court
Following the Rehnquist confirmation was both a curse and blessing for Scalia. Maybe Rehnquist got all the hard questions leaving some easier ones for Scalia.
There was a reluctance to challenge the first Italian-American nominee. He was not pressed on issues such as abortion or civil rights.
He also had the foresight to bring his wife and all nine of his children to the hearing to sit behind him.
Rehnquist’s chief justice appointment was confirmed by a vote of 65-33 and Scalia was confirmed the same day by a vote of 98-0. He was a unanimous choice.
One of the committee members later regretted not having opposed Scalia saying, “because he was so effective.”
Who was that committee member? — Democrat Senator from Delaware Joe Biden.
Some Final Thoughts
While I have a major problem with proposing Supreme Court Justices based on ethnicity or empathy for a particular group Scalia worked out very well for the benefit of the American people.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who might disagree since we have Obamacare and Citizen’s United. But there is no perfect candidate.
I hope that whoever is elected puts the constitution and the rule of law ahead of emotion in their decision making process.
While it’s not possible to get another Scalia in today’s political climate, let’s just hope we get someone who interprets our Constitution as it was written, not how we wish it were written.