U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia found dead at 79

WASHINGTON -- Antonin Scalia, the influential conservative and most provocative member of the Supreme Court, has died. He was 79.

See Full Article

The U.S. Marshals Service in Washington confirmed Scalia's death at a private residence in the Big Bend area of West Texas. Spokeswoman Donna Sellers said Scalia had retired the previous evening and was found dead Saturday morning after he did not appear for breakfast.

His death sets up a likely ideological showdown during a presidential election year as President Barack Obama weighs nominating a successor to the justice in the remainder of his White House term. Scalia was part of a 5-4 conservative majority -- with one of the five, Anthony Kennedy, sometimes voting with liberals on the court.

Scalia used his keen intellect and missionary zeal in an unyielding attempt to move the court farther to the right after his 1986 selection by President Ronald Reagan. He also advocated tirelessly in favour of originalism, the method of constitutional interpretation that looks to the meaning of words and concepts as they were understood by the Founding Fathers.

Scalia's impact on the court was muted by his seeming disregard for moderating his views to help build consensus, although he was held in deep affection by his ideological opposites Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. Scalia and Ginsburg shared a love of opera. He persuaded Kagan to join him on hunting trips.

His 2008 opinion for the court in favour of gun rights drew heavily on the history of the Second Amendment and was his crowning moment on the bench.

He could be a strong supporter of privacy in cases involving police searches and defendants' rights. Indeed, Scalia often said he should be the "poster child" for the criminal defence bar.

But he also voted consistently to let states outlaw abortions, to allow a closer relationship between government and religion, to permit executions and to limit lawsuits.

He was in the court's majority in the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, which effectively decided the presidential election for Republican George W. Bush. "Get over it," Scalia would famously say at speaking engagements in the ensuing years whenever the topic arose.

Bush later named one of Scalia's sons, Eugene, to an administration job, but the Senate refused to confirm him. Eugene Scalia served as the Labor Department solicitor temporarily in a recess appointment.

A smoker of cigarettes and pipes, Scalia enjoyed baseball, poker, hunting and the piano. He was an enthusiastic singer at court Christmas parties and other musical gatherings, and once appeared on stage with Ginsburg as a Washington Opera extra.

Ginsburg once said that Scalia was "an absolutely charming man, and he can make even the most sober judge laugh." She said that she urged her friend to tone down his dissenting opinions "because he'll be more effective if he is not so polemical. I'm not always successful."

He could be unsparing even with his allies. In 2007, Scalia sided with Chief Justice John Roberts in a decision that gave corporations and labour unions wide latitude to air political ads close to elections. Yet Scalia was upset that the new chief justice's opinion did not explicitly overturn an earlier decision. "This faux judicial restraint is judicial obfuscation," Scalia said.

Quick-witted and loquacious, Scalia was among the most persistent, frequent and quotable interrogators of the lawyers who appeared before the court.

During Scalia's first argument session as a court member, Justice Lewis F. Powell leaned over and asked a colleague, "Do you think he knows that the rest of us are here?"

Scalia's writing seemed irrepressible and entertaining much of the time. But it also could be confrontational. It was a mocking Scalia who in 1993 criticized a decades-old test used by the court to decide whether laws or government policies violated the constitutionally required separation of church and state.

"Like some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried, (the test) stalks our ... jurisprudence once again, frightening the little children and school attorneys," he wrote.

Scalia showed a deep commitment to originalism, which he later began calling textualism. Judges had a duty to give the same meaning to the Constitution and laws as they had when they were written. Otherwise, he said disparagingly, judges could decide that "the Constitution means exactly what I think it ought to mean."

A challenge to a Washington, D.C., gun ban gave Scalia the opportunity to display his devotion to textualism. In a 5-4 decision that split the court's conservatives and liberals, Scalia wrote that an examination of English and colonial history made it exceedingly clear that the Second Amendment protected Americans' right to have guns, at the very least in their homes and for self-defence. The dissenters, also claiming fidelity to history, said the amendment was meant to ensure that states could raise militias to confront a too-powerful federal government if necessary.

But Scalia rejected that view. "Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct," Scalia wrote.

His dissents in cases involving gay rights could be as biting as they were prescient. "By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition," Scalia wrote in dissent in 2013 when the court struck down part of a federal anti-gay marriage law. Six months later, a federal judge in Utah cited Scalia's dissent in his opinion striking down that state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Scalia was passionate about the death penalty. He wrote for the court when in 1989 it allowed states to use capital punishment for killers who were 16 or 17 when they committed their crimes. He was on the losing side in 2005 when the court changed course and declared it unconstitutional for states to execute killers that young.

"The Court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our Nation's moral standards -- and in the course of discharging that awesome responsibility purports to take guidance from the views of foreign courts and legislatures," Scalia wrote in a scathing dissent.

In 2002, he dissented from the court's decision to outlaw executing the mentally retarded. That same year, Scalia surprised some people with a public declaration of independence from his Roman Catholic church on the death penalty. He said judges who follow the philosophy that capital punishment is morally wrong should resign.

Scalia also supported free speech rights, but complained too. "I do not like scruffy people who burn the American flag," he said in 2002, but "regrettably, the First Amendment gives them the right to do that."

A longtime law professor before becoming a judge, Scalia frequently spoke at law schools and to other groups. Later in his tenure, he also spoke at length in on-the-record interviews, often to promote a book.

He betrayed no uncertainty about some of the most contentious legal issues of the day. The framers of the Constitution didn't think capital punishment was unconstitutional and neither did he.

"The death penalty? Give me a break. It's easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state," Scalia said during a talk that preceded a book signing at the American Enterprise Institute in 2012.

The only child of an Italian immigrant father who was a professor of Romance languages and a mother who taught elementary school, Scalia attended public schools in his native New Jersey, graduated first in his class at Georgetown University and won high honours at the Harvard University Law School.

He worked at a large Cleveland law firm for six years before joining the faculty of the University of Virginia's law school. He left that job to work in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

From 1977 to 1982, Scalia taught law at the University of Chicago.

He then was appointed by Reagan to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Scalia and his wife, Maureen, had nine children.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Wildfire rages close to Yosemite National Park

    World News CBC News
    A blaze burning in foothills west of Yosemite National Park destroyed dozens of structures and forced thousands to flee Gold Rush-era towns but fire crews have been able to stop it from reaching a threatened community on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Source
  • He's back: Ryan Seacrest to host new American Idol

    World News CBC News
    ABC's American Idol revival is bringing back one of the original stars: Ryan Seacrest. Seacrest confirmed the long rumoured news on his morning show Live with Kelly and Ryan on Thursday after teasing the announcement via social media. Source
  • Police seek to ID man accused of sexually assaulting boy at subway station

    Canada News CTV News
    Toronto police are asking for help in identifying a man they say sexually assaulted a seven-year-old boy at a west-end subway station. Police say a woman reported that her son was sexually assaulted from behind while they were on the escalator at Ossington station Wednesday evening. Source
  • Cop suspended, defence lawyers say video shows drugs planted

    World News CTV News
    BALTIMORE -- A Baltimore officer's police powers have been suspended after defence attorneys released a body camera video that they said shows an officer planting drugs. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said at a news conference Wednesday that two other officers were put on non-public-contact administrative duty. Source
  • For 1st time, over half of people with HIV taking AIDS drugs

    World News CBC News
    For the first time in the global AIDS epidemic that has spanned four decades and killed 35 million people, more than half of all those infected with HIV are on drugs to treat the virus, the United Nations said in a report released Thursday. Source
  • Western Michigan woman convicted of murder in parrot case

    World News CTV News
    WHITE CLOUD, Mich. - A jury has convicted a western Michigan woman of first-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband in a crime apparently witnessed by the man's pet parrot. The Newaygo County jury deliberated about eight hours before finding 49-year-old Glenna Duram guilty Wednesday of killing 46-year-old Martin Duram. Source
  • Police trying to piece together last hours of 13-year-old B.C. girl found dead in park

    Canada News CTV News
    Investigators are trying to piece together the final hours of Marissa Shen, a 13-year-old girl whose body was found in a park in Burnaby, B.C. Burnaby RCMP are treating the case as a homicide, although they’re still waiting for autopsy results to determine a cause of death. Source
  • Julie Payette's vetting for governor general questioned amid 'disquieting' revelations

    Canada News CBC News
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is refusing to say what he knew — and when he knew it — about a dismissed, non-felony charge against his choice for Governor General. Julie Payette is calling the six-year-old incident a case of an "unfounded" allegation for which she was "immediately cleared" without any prosecution. Source
  • U.S. hotel, NFL arena may have same flammable panels as Grenfell Towers

    World News Toronto Sun
    In promotional brochures, a U.S. company boasted of the “stunning visual effect” its shimmering aluminum panels created in an NFL stadium, an Alaskan high school and a luxury hotel along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor that “soars 33 stories into the air. Source
  • 10-year-old trips over a 1.2 million-year-old Tusk fossil

    World News Toronto Sun
    LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A boy’s misstep on a family hike in New Mexico has given the world a prehistoric wonder. Ten-year-old Jude Sparks was on a desert hike in Las Cruces in November when he tripped over what turned out to be the fossilized tusk of a 1.2 million-year-old elephant-like creature, called a stegomastodon. Source