Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died this morning at a ranch in West Texas. He was 79.
Scalia was appointed to the court in 1986, by President Ronald Reagan, as the first Italian American to serve on the high court. He was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1936 and brought up in New York City. From private practice and academia he entered public service during the Nixon administration, and became an appeals court judge under Reagan.
His written rulings and opinions divided observers, infuriating liberals. He dissented, for example, in the 2015 case which legalised same-sex marriage across the US, and caused controversy with comments about race and healthcare.
Antonin Gregory Scalia, March 11, 1936 – February 12 or 13, 2016, was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, who served for 29 years, from 1986 until his death. As the longest-serving justice on the Court, Scalia became the Senior Associate Justice. Appointed to the Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, Scalia was described as the intellectual anchor for the originalist and textualist position in the Court’s conservative wing.
Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey, and attended public grade school and Catholic high school in New York City, where his family had moved. He attended Georgetown University as an undergraduate and obtained his LL.B degree from Harvard Law School. After spending six years in a Cleveland law firm, he became a law school professor at the University of Virginia. In the early 1970s, he served in the Nixon and Ford Administrations, first at minor administrative agencies, and then as an assistant attorney general. He spent most of the Carter years teaching at the University of Chicago, where he became one of the first faculty advisers of the fledgling Federalist Society. In 1982, he was appointed as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by President Ronald Reagan. In 1986, Scalia was appointed by Reagan to the Supreme Court to fill the associate justice seat vacated when Justice William Rehnquist was elevated to Chief Justice. Whereas Rehnquist’s confirmation was contentious, Scalia was asked few difficult questions by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and faced no opposition. Scalia was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, becoming the first Italian-American justice.
Scalia served on the Court for nearly thirty years, during which time he established a solidly conservative voting record and ideology, advocating textualism in statutory interpretation and originalism in constitutional interpretation. He was a strong defender of the powers of the executive branch, believing presidential power should be paramount in many areas. He opposed affirmative action and other policies that treated minorities as groups. He filed separate opinions in many cases and often castigated the Court’s majority in his minority opinions using scathing language.