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Saturday 12 November 2016

Obituary: Reagan Error- Antonin Scalia (1937-2016)

Posted in: Politics and Religion
By Craig Young - 15th February 2016

Right-wing US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in mid-February 2016. He was a vehement religious social conservative and opponent of LGBT rights in the United States.

Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1986, Scalia served thirty years on the front bench of the US Supreme Court. In terms of legal interpretation, he was an 'originalist'- which means that he regarded the meaning of the US Constitution as fixed at the time it was written, in the late eighteenth century. Originalists believe that constitutional law should reflect the original intent and interpretation of the founders of the United States. He was a textualist when it came to the 'ordinary meaning' of legislation, with no reference to supplementary historical, scientific or social scientific evident sources.

Scalia studied law at Georgetown University and Harvard Law School. Under the Nixon and Ford administrations of the seventies, he served as an Assistant Attorney-General for the Office of Legal Counsel. In the mid-eighties, Ronald Reagan and then-Attorney General Edwin Meese appointed him US Supreme Court justice. For the last three decades, he has been a thorn in the side of liberal US Supreme Court justices and progressive legislators, continually finding fault with gun control legislation, affirmative action and equal opportunity legislation, abortion rights (as a conservative Catholic), and was a rigid opponent of LGBT rights legislation, from the decriminalisation of male homosexuality inBowers v Hardwick(1986) to the positive antidiscrimination outcome in Romer v Evans(1996), to the final repeal of archaic 'anti-sodomy' laws in Lawrence v Evans(2004) to Obergefell v Hodges(2015) and marriage equality throughout the United States. He supported capital punishment and opposed the cessation of life support for those who were comatose in a permanent vegetative state. He also enabled the questionable presidential victory of George W.Bush in Bush v Gore(2000), for which he refused to apologise. When it came to the rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, he was thankfully in the minority when it came to rescinding habeas corpus and the right to fair judicial and criminal justice treatment. He has been described as a radical by former gay Democrat Member of the House of Representatives Barney Frank and others. By his own admission, Scalia's media choices were narrow and constricted- he preferred the right-wingWall Street Journaland Unification Church-owned Washington Times to more respectable and distinguished outlets like the Washington Post and New York Times due to the latter's "liberalism."

In fact, when it came to religious social conservatism, he was reportedly a hardliner, even for a conservative Catholic. His son Paul is a Catholic priest, but Scalia would drive for some time to worship at conservative Catholic parishes where he would be assured of ideological compatibility on Sundays. He believed in the literal existence of Satan. Aged 79, Scalia died while on a hunting trip to bag some quail in Texas, whether in bed or in the process of hunting.

Scalia's death means that there are now three core conservative US Supreme Court justices left- Justices Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. While Justice Anthony Kennedy was also a Reagan appointee, he tends to be more libertarian than a hardcore social conservative. It also means that President Obama, or either Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, if they win the US presidency, will be able to redress the regressive effect of Reagan era and George W.Bush appointments on human rights and civil liberties within the United States. This may protect Obergefell v Hodges(which struck down remaining US state obstacles against marriage equality)from malignant and unwarranted scrutiny from the remaining hard right judges, protect abortion rights from further intrusion from the same quarter and might even result in possible recognition of federal and state LGBT inclusion within antidiscrimination laws. If the worst happens and a radical fundamentalist Republican like Cruz or Rubio wins the nomination and presidency, the worst will happen.


Antonin Scalia:
Scalia Dissents:Washington: Regnery: 2004.

Antonin Scalia and Amy Guttman:A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law: Princeton: Princeton University Press: 1997.

Antonin Scalia and Bryan Turner:Making Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts:St Pauls: Thomson West: 2012.

Bruce Murphy:Scalia: A Court of One:New York: Sunib and Schuster: 2014.

Richard Risbin:Justice Antonin Scalia and the Conservative Revival:Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press: 1997.

David Schultz and Chris Smith:The Jurisprudential Vision of Antonin Scalia: Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield: 1996.

Stephen Calabres:Originalism: A Quarter Century of Debate: Washington: Regnery: 2007.

Corey Robin:The Reactionary Mind: New York: Oxford University Press: 2011.

Joan Biskupic:American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia:New York: Farrar Strauss and Giroux:

Wikipedia/Antonin Scalia: Antonin_Scalia

Craig Young - 15th February 2016

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