I wish to offer a few words remembering Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court. America has lost a legal giant and tireless defender of the Constitution. Justice Scalia dedicated his life to his country and the rule of law. His passing is a significant loss for the Court and the United States.
Few associate justices of the Supreme Court capture the attention of both lawyers and non-lawyers like Justice Scalia has throughout his career. Antonin Scalia used wit, humor, and colorful writing to captivate Americans in his judicial opinions and educational talks. Justice Scalia also felt strongly about protecting the rights of the individual, and did so in monumental opinions interpreting the First, Second, Fourth, and Sixth Amendments. In the immediate days following his passing, I received substantial correspondence from Wyoming residents praising his work for upholding the Constitution and defending individual liberties.
A number of my colleagues have already mentioned how Justice Scalia would always put the Constitution first, even if it conflicted with his personal views. This was the case when Justice Scalia voted to uphold the right of protesters to burn the American flag?—?even though he strongly disagreed with flag desecration. When it comes to privacy, Justice Scalia established himself as a leading champion of the Fourth Amendment, particularly when it comes to privacy in one’s home or car. Justice Scalia also authored a landmark majority opinion upholding gun rights under the Second Amendment which reiterated the constitutional right of an individual to keep and bear arms in the District of Columbia, a right which was later incorporated to all states.
Justice Scalia also fought ardently for religious freedoms under the Establishment Clause and joined others in upholding freedom of association under the First Amendment.
From his earliest days on the Supreme Court, Scalia approached the Constitution and statutes passed by Congress as a textualist. He protected the vertical separation of power in our federalist system which keeps decisions closer to the people and fought for the separation of powers amongst the three branches of federal government. Most recently, Justice Scalia challenged executive overreach in the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court invalidating President Obama’s unconstitutional recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Finally, Justice Scalia’s writings, judicial philosophy, and lectures have influenced future generations of lawyers and jurists. Whether, during oral argument, asking if the government can “make people buy broccoli” or referencing Cole Porter lyrics in opinions, Scalia used words to rebut, challenge, and persuade.
Justice Scalia’s legacy and legal precedents will stand the test of time and our nation owes him a debt of gratitude for his service. My wife Diana and I send our prayers and condolences to the Scalia family.
First published in the Senate Congressional Record on February 23, 2015.