On Saturday, February 13, news outlet organizations confirmed that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died while on a trip in West Texas. News of Scalia's passing was confirmed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who said Scalia "was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served." Even those who deeply disagreed with his politics, his beliefs, and his interpretation of the Constitution find it hard to dispute the fact that Scalia was a devout Justice who believed in upholding the laws of our land the way they were intended. And though he's been quoted again and again, this one quote from Scalia shows just how respected he was, even by his adversaries:
If you're going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you're not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you're probably doing something wrong.
It is believed that Scalia passed from natural causes while on a personal trip, though the cause of death has not yet been officially confirmed. According to the NY Post, Scalia arrived at the Cibolo Creek Ranch on Friday, Feb. 12 and attended a private party. After he missed breakfast the following morning, reports suggest that an employee went to his room, where his body was found.
There was no room for choosing a side or picking a team as far as Scalia was concerned, and clearly he cared little for what the cultural zeitgeist might think of him. He cared about the law: upholding it, molding it, shaping it, and defining it. He cared about his position because he knew how necessary it was.
In the wake of his passing, the New York Times wrote that he was a "champion of originalism, the theory of constitutional interpretation that seeks to apply the understanding of those who drafted and ratified the Constitution." Scalia served on the Supreme Court since his appointment in 1986 by then-president Ronald Reagan, and though over the years people have staunchly opposed his interpretation of our laws and values, there is no denying that Scalia held his position in high-esteem.
As a woman, I wouldn't stand (sit?) idly by and pretend that Scalia's opinions didn't chafe rudely against my own personal values and morals, but I do respect that he knew what he was getting into — and even so, he chose to put the job he'd be put in place to do above anything and everyone else. Did Scalia please everyone with his rulings in the Supreme Court? Obviously not. Take, for instance, his now-infamous dissent on the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage. Though this is only part, it marks my personal favorite passage:
Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality (whatever that means) were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie. Expression, sure enough, is a freedom, but anyone in a long-lasting marriage will attest that that happy state constricts, rather than expands, what one can prudently say.
I disagree with everything said there, and I didn't even need to consult the nearest hippie. I hope I am never in the type of relationship that impedes on my ability to say what I want as the years go on, yet I respect Scalia's declaration to be and stay a man of the law he so willingly was appointed to uphold. As a member of our political process — and a member of the highest ranking court in the United States of America — he was selected to do a job that is often without much praise (and with plenty of complaint). Clearly Scalia understood this: He understood that in order to uphold the laws of our country, he'd often need to uphold the viewpoint that was less popular.
Scalia knew his decisions would often be called into question — that his character would be attacked — but he believed in doing so for the good and betterment of our country. You can disagree with those beliefs all you like (and many have), and that's absolutely fine, but Scalia was given jurisdiction to do a job that many would rather not — and he understood the implications, both immediate and in the long-term — that role would command of him.
Upholding and presiding over cases that call into question, dispute, or seek to interpret laws put into place hundreds and hundreds of years ago is a fete we'd all agree is no easy task, and likewise, we can all agree that Scalia knew exactly what he was walking into. But he knew (far better than any of us can understand) the value those laws will have in the future. His brilliance was one of his must fundamental and important traits as a Justice, and I say that as someone who took deep issue with some of the most iconic rulings he presided over.
He knew life as a Justice did not include siding with the popular vote or with the preferred vote. He knew it meant upholding those laws that would put our country and our people first. Obviously we might not have all agreed with his positions, but Scalia took his role seriously. There was no room for choosing a side or picking a team as far as Scalia was concerned, and clearly he cared little for what the cultural zeitgeist might think of him. He cared about the law: upholding it, molding it, shaping it, and defining it. He cared about his position because he knew how necessary it was. It's also worth noting that Scalia knew he wouldn't like every conclusion reached, and even so, he rightly vowed to protect the Court's findings.
The New York Times continued that Scalia "was an exceptional stylist who labored over his opinions and took pleasure in finding precisely the right word or phrase. In dissent, he took no prisoners. The author of a majority opinion could be confident that a Scalia dissent would not overlook any shortcomings." And in a role such as his, Scalia's consistency and commitment to what he valued was most important for our country. His passing marks a huge hole in our political and democratic process — and that's something both sides can agree on, regardless of whether you liked him or not.