Antonin Scalia

Antonin ScaliaAntonin Scalia is 77 today. There are other people born today who have made the world better, like the great American composer Carl Ruggles. Scalia has made it worse—much worse. But I can’t get past the man today.

On one hand, Scalia is a proud iconoclast. I’m an iconoclast. I love iconoclasts. But on the other hand, Scalia is evil. Like Hitler, he combines iconoclasticism with villainy. And that is always a recipe for disaster when such a person gets power. And Scalia sadly has power and has had the annoying tendencies to outlive Hitler by 21 years (minus 10 days). (That’s right: I’m counting the days.)

Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with conservatives on the court. There are 8 of them on the current Supreme Court and I’m fine with 3 of them. And 2 more are not totally reprehensible. Unfortunately for Scalia, he is a member of the Totally Reprehensible Three (TR3). I can’t decide if he is worse than Alito, but shocking though it may seem, he is certainly worse than Thomas. Thomas at least is fairly consistent. I don’t agree with where he’s coming from but I at least understand it. I don’t have a good take on Alito, because he hasn’t been there that long. He is, however, clearly a racist and sexist asshole. Sadly, that doesn’t really say much about how he stacks up in the TR3.

In the old days, Scalia had a brilliant mind. But no more! All he has to offer now is arrogance and abuse. He seems to stay on the court primarily to continue his long running protest against modernity.

Corey Robin explains Scalia well in his three part series on the colorful judge:

Scalia’s conservatism, it turns out, is less a little platoon than a Thoreauvian counterculture, a retreat from and rebuke to the mainstream, not unlike the hippie communes and groupuscules he once tried to keep at bay. It is not a conservatism of tradition or inheritance: his parents had only one child, and his mother-in-law often complained about having to drive miles and hours in search of the one true church. “Why don’t you people ever seem to live near churches?” she would ask Scalia and his wife. It is a conservatism of invention and choice, informed by the very spirit of rebellion he so plainly loathes—or thinks he loathes—in the culture at large.

I don’t want to think about the man. I am just counting the days before he has a massive stroke. But I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Dying would be a kind thing to do for our country. Scalia doesn’t do kind.


A salve for our woes:

Update (11 March 2013 7:48 pm)

I found this comment by Alex Bailin to Corey Robin’s review of American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the London Review of Books. It gets more at my thinking regarding Scalia than Robin’s:

I was intrigued by Corey Robin’s analysis of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s adherence to constitutional originalism; in particular his conclusion that Scalia ‘reflects rather than refracts the spirit of the age’ (LRB, 10 June). Unfortunately, the reality is rather more prosaic. Scalia has applied his constitutional theory with varying rigour depending on the political context. In Bush v. Gore, for example, he jettisoned originalism in reaching the majority decision which gave George W. Bush the presidency. The original constitution plainly gave each state the power to decide its electoral vote and that ought to have meant that the Supreme Court had no power to intervene in the Florida courts’ consideration of Florida’s vote. The lasting damage that judgment did to the court’s standing led Justice John Paul Stevens to conclude: ‘Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.’

And that is what I find so troubling with Scalia. He decides what he thinks and then comes up with something to justify it. He may have had a brilliant mind but he was never a brilliant jurist.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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