On Saturday Washington was stunned by the news that Antonin Scalia, one of the controversial and well respected conservative jurist was dead at the age 79. He was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 making him the longest serving justice on the court.
In his 29 years on the court, Scalia achieved almost a cult following for his acerbic dissents, which in many ways shaped the ongoing legal debate over how courts should interpret the Constitution.
For decades Scalia railed against the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion, affirmative action, gay rights and religion. He lived to see many of the decisions he so reviled trimmed and even overturned after President George W. Bush replaced two conservative justices with even more conservative justices. But Scalia remained impatient with the pace of change. His influence continued, not by brokering consensus, but by goading his colleagues with biting dissents.
Professor David A. McCue is a retired constitutional law professor who follows the Supreme Court for a number of media outlets. This morning from Paris where he was on a speaking tour, he talked to News Talk Florida about what made Scalia such an interesting person in the legal community.
“When he joined the court justices merely listened to oral arguments without asking questions before moving on to rendering a decision,” said McCue. “He changed the way oral arguments were given because he began to ask some very pointed and tough questions of lawyers on both sides of an issue during the oral arguments. Once he started asking the questions the other justices began to follow suit and that was a game changer.”
“As a legal professor I make sure that my students read Scalia dissents because they are so well written and so well constructed that no matter what side of the issue you are on there is always something to be learned,” McCue responded.
“As to how he will be remembered McCue, a liberal professor was quick to respond. “ Make no mistake about it Justice Scalia will be remembered as one the smartest and someone who understands every word of the constitution. He had a bigger than life personality and someone that we will be teaching about for decades.”