Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,79,died today in Texas. He died of apparently natural causes, though there had been no indication he was in poor health. Scalia was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. Scalia has been a staunch conservative on the bench ever since. He was a leading advocate of interpreting the U.S. Constitution by using what is called a strict constructionist approach. A strict constructionist interprets and applies the language in the constitution in a straight forward literal way without regard to changes in society since the time it was written. As such, Scalia was a leading conservative on the court.
Chief Justice John Roberts announced the death of Scalia on behalf of the Court, saying of Scalia, “He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”
Scalia was a graduate of Harvard Law School and was editor of the school’s law review. He was the son of a Sicilian immigrant father and a first generation Italian-American mother. He married Maureen McGovern whom he met at Radcliffe, the former women’s college at Harvard, before Harvard went coed. They had nine children together.
When learning of Scalia’s death, President Obama extended the deepest condolences to Scalia’s family.
President George W. Bush issued a statement saying that he and his wife Laura mourn the death of a brilliant jurist and important American and a towering figure on the Nation’s highest court.
Scalia’s death leaves an opening on the court, but there appears little chance that President Obama could get a nominee approved by the Republican controlled U.S. Senate this year. As such, Scalia’s passing is likely to have a strong impact on presidential politics and on both the Democrat and Republican primary races for the presidential nominees.
Scalia has been instrumental in controversial cases at the Supreme Court on both the winning and losing sides. He won on his interpretation of the second amendment where he argued that the words in the constitution “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” meant that the constitution protects an individual’s right to own guns, as opposed to an interpretation that it only protected the right of citizens to bear arms via an organized State militia.
Many of Scalia’s writings in dissent and in the majority were against the tide of cultural change, including on abortion, on restricting the death penalty,on same sex marriage and on gay rights.