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Scalia, Antonin Gregory

Supreme Court Justice Scalia - image courtesty US Supreme Court
Antonin Gregory Scalia
was born on: 
11 March 1936
Trenton, New Jersey, USA
and died on: 
13 February 2016
Shafter, Texas, USA

Conservative Supreme Court Judge with tendency to balanced judgments


In life, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was often painted as a hard line right-wing judge for whom the term "conservative" seemed too mild.

But in truth, while his Christianity defined his position on e.g. abortion and same-sex "marriages" , he was far from uncaring and unthinking. While left wing media, such as the UK's The Guardian, have rallied to denounce him, even in death the reality is that he provided a balance against fashion and radicalism in all its forms. His approach to judgments had a common theme: if the parties make a good case for changing the law, then it should be changed bearing in mind that the law should be changed to something that will be enduring.

But it is true that he did have some very outmoded ideas: for example, he was opposed to equal pay for all, regardless of race or gender. He felt that questions of racial segregation were for the local electorate to decide, not federal law and courts, a view he extended to homosexuality.

But he also spoke out against positive discrimination, telling a magazine, the California Lawyer, "the constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t … If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey, we have things called legislatures and they enact things called laws." That, predictably, drew ire from the restrictionists who sell themselves as liberals.

But mostly, the criticisms of him are focussed on his continued opposition to abortion and his stated distaste for Rowe v Wade.

He has also been criticised for comments that the outrage industry regarded as racist : he said "“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school … a slower-track school where they do well.” However, those who read his comments without pre-judging them realised that he was saying that affirmative action has failed black Americans by filling quota places with students who were not suited to their courses. Had they taken courses that suited them, then they would have excelled. Far from being racist, he was pointing out a failure in the system, a failure that re-inforces the stereotype of the black student as failure.

Scalia died in bed on a hunting trip in Texas.

Nigel Morris-Cotterill
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