Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly on February 13, 2016. His death opens the possibility that the Supreme Court could rule 4-4 in a case before a replacement is confirmed. If that were to happen, the decision of the lower court would stand. The decision would be binding on the immediate parties but would not set a national precedent. Since his death, Justice Scalia and his legacy have been talked about in the news. However, he was as interesting as a human being as he was as a legal scholar.
Scalia was an avid hunter and a member of his high school’s rifle team.1 This illuminates his decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which upheld the right of citizens to keep guns at home for self defense. Scalia said of the decision that it was “The most complete originalist opinion that I’ve ever written.”
Perhaps it is only fitting that Scalia passed away from natural causes pursuing his passion for hunting on a Texas ranch.
A smoker of cigarettes and pipes, Scalia enjoyed baseball, poker, hunting, and playing the piano. He was an enthusiastic singer at court Christmas parties and other musical gatherings and he once appeared on stage with Ginsburg as a Washington opera extra.2
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, his ideological opposite, had this to say following Scalia’s death:
Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: ‘We are different, we are one,’ different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve. . .3
The fact that Scalia could disagree so significantly with his fellow justices and yet maintain friendship, speaks to his high moral and ethical character.
1 Liptak, A. February 14, 2016. “Antonin Scalia, Justice on the Supreme Court, Dies at 79” The New York Times.
2 February 14, 2016. “Scalia’s tenure filled with strong opinions” Associated Press in the Tampa Bay Times.
3 February 14, 2016. “Supreme Court justices react to Antonin Scalia’s death” The Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved from www.tampabay.com.