From the Hart: Justice Antonin Scalia: a man in full

tsj column writers - from the hartBy Ron Hart

A board I serve on in Washington, D.C. was fortunate to meet with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last week. Scalia is a famous jurist, admired by many for his intellect and convictions and despised by liberals for his steadfast willingness to act on them.

Antonin Scalia, the justice most hated by the left, was unanimously confirmed (98-0) by the Senate in 1986. Imagine how he would fare today with the politics of personal destruction running rampant.

With the same-sex marriage decision by the Supreme Court due soon, it was interesting to talk with someone tasked with making an important decision for gays (historically the role of the Tony Awards committee). The Court will determine if defining same-sex marriage is a state’s right or whether marriage remains traditionally defined only as the union of two resentful and entrapped people who eventually end up wearing sweatpants to watch Wheel of Fortune every night.

From an Italian immigrant family, Antonin Scalia graduated from Georgetown University and Harvard Law School. He is the embodiment of the American dream, and he seems intent on keeping that dream alive for others. The man we met last week was nothing like the cantankerous lout the media portray him to be. He is a kind, thoughtful man with a good sense of humor: a down-to-earth man whom you would feel very comfortable making major decisions on your behalf.

He said humbly that the Supreme Court was less important in citizens’ lives than state and local courts, where 90% of jurisprudence is administered. Most important legal matters that affect us are decided locally. If one commits murder, in the 50 states there can be 50 different burdens of proof and punishments. Rape, robbery, divorce, child custody, etc. are all local court decisions. The Supremes are just there to referee in case the Constitution is violated.

I asked him how precedented it was to have a sitting president like our own Obama always chiming in on cases before the Court, in hopes of intimidating the justices to decide in his favor. Justice Scalia said he does not attend the “State of the Union” address for that very reason; if he did, he would have gotten up and left when Obama lectured Justice Alito on the Citizens United decision. He ended with, “What can he do to me anyway?”

Justice Scalia has a lifetime appointment; he can’t be removed. The only other appointed lifetime political job in Washington is being the wife of Bill Clinton. Oh wait — sadly, it is no longer true that federal judges are the only lifetime employees. Under Obama, all federal jobs in Washington are perpetual unless the employee commits murder or crosses the president politically.

When Justice John Paul Stevens left the Supreme Court at age 89 (he was so old they had to keep reminding him to close his robe), we no longer had a Protestant on the Supreme Court. Now things are going our way for us WASPs. Soon, as a minority, we will be getting into Harvard with 950 SAT scores and qualifying for casino licenses.

Scalia ruled that voters can eliminate the racial preference programs which have long given minorities advantages. Apparently, affirmative action has outlived its purpose in a world where, in Spokane, you can one day decide you are black or, in LA, you can discover at age 65 that you are a woman.

Not all the Court does is boring. Anna Nicole Smith appeared before the Justices. One might think she’d be uncomfortable in the Supreme Court, but in her day Anna Nicole spent a lot of time around old men in robes.

Justice Scalia also feels that students should read “The Federalist Papers” and Alexis de Tocqueville (“Democracy in America”). Public school unions would not like students reading about limited government and personal responsibility. Kids today probably think de Tocqueville is a town in Colorado known for its killer weed.

Scalia surprised most when he said one of his best friends on the court is liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She’s fun and usually wins the case of Ginsburg v. Jack Daniels. At 83, Justice Ginsburg will not step down unless the NY Yankees sign her.

Justice Antonin Scalia will turn 80 soon. I predict that, in a closely followed Supreme Court decision, the justices will vote 5 to 4 to get him a cake.

 

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