by Troy M. Olson
Within the last hour, the news has broken a story that a titan of U.S. Constitutional Law and theory, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has died at the age of 79. Justice Scalia, known for being the most conservative (or second most) member of the Court, was also the intellectual anchor for the Constitutional theories of originalism and textualism.
At some point in the future I’ll be following up on what this shocking turn of events means for the makeup of the Court, how it will effect the 2016 Presidential Election, and some of the logistics and politics of it all. For now though, I’d just like to share a few stories about a person who I have had to read more words from than just about anybody I can think of.
Depending on your political persuasion, you either find Justice Scalia to be a fierce advocate for the Constitution as the framers intended it, or you are somewhere to the left of that (much of the country) and find him completely out of step with where the country is historically, economically, socially, and culturally. I, however, fall into the obscure third category. Like many on the left of center part of the political spectrum, I cannot stand Justice Scalia. He is like that crazy old Uncle at Thanksgiving meme that you love to hate.
As many progressives, liberals, and even moderates and centrists can attest to, he was a hell of a good (if frustrating) read for anyone who has attended law school. I have read Scalia a lot, have disagreed with nearly all of it, but I cannot help but admire the zealous advocacy in pursuit of his arguments. He was a worthy intellectual opponent and as more and more of the political right in this country becomes consumed by the rising tide of book burners, I cannot help but miss people like William F. Buckley, and now, Justice Scalia, who at least advanced arguments that were thoughtful, well defended and argued, even if you hold those views and arguments in utter contempt. I often heard this statement or some version of among my liberal law school classmates: “I cannot stand Scalia, but he is fun to read, and I have a hard time matching his arguments. Which frustrates me even more!”
Two U.S. Supreme Court Justices have spoken at UST Law School where I graduated from in 2014. Justice Scalia was one of them. Depending on the day, I either immensely enjoyed my time at law school or was incredibly frustrated by the experience. On those days when it was frustrating and you did not want to read another word: he made the long and brutal slog, just a little bit more entertaining.