RIP Antonin Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden passing leaves an enormous void in principled leadership at the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The 79-year-old conservative jurist’s sharp intellect, integrity, humor, and uncompromising application of the Constitution were unmatched in recent years.  He truly was the conscience of the Court when it came to explicating original intent – that is, what America’s Founders intended the Constitution to mean as well as those who lawfully amended it.

Often, he wrote searing dissents, reminding his colleagues that the Constitution itself has intrinsic meaning that is not hard to discern.

For those wearied by convoluted logic and outright dishonesty at the heart of rulings based on the ever flexible “living constitution,” Justice Scalia’s commentaries are like a fountain of cool water in a desert.

His finely crafted dissents are not just good reading, however; they provide a well-marked road map for future jurists to get back to constitutionality.

Apart from his consistently excellent questioning and writing, Justice Scalia earned the friendship and respect of colleagues who disagreed with him about anything truly important.  Arguably President Reagan’s finest appointment, Justice Scalia exuded humility and likeability.  Even while he took no prisoners when writing in deep disagreement, he showed affection and respect for his colleagues, which was mutual.

During a speech to the Knights of Columbus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2005, Justice Scalia gave glimpses of what he regarded as the big picture, even beyond constitutional jurisprudence.

God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools ... and he has not been disappointed…,” Scalia said. “Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity,” he added. “Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.

Justice Scalia was anything but unsophisticated.  He was brilliant, honest, and grounded in a faith that drove him to a relentless pursuit of the truth and excellence in explicating it.

He was also a consummate family man.  Justice Scalia is survived by his wife Maureen, his nine children and 36 grandchildren.

May this great American patriot rest in peace.

Robert Knight is a senior fellow with the American Civil Rights Union.