WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2016 – Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, died Saturday while vacationing at a resort in West Texas. The cause of death is still unknown.
He served three decades on the high court. “He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and country he so loyally served,” said Chief Justice John Roberts in a statement.
Scalia’s most important and biting observation from the bench came in his dissenting opinion in 2015’s Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling that found in favor of same-sex marriage:
It is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.
In the slim 5-4 majority opinion upholding the Second Amendment right to bear arms as constitutional in District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008), Scalia wrote in his opinion for the majority:
Nowhere else in the Constitution does a “right” attributed to “the people” refer to anything other than an individual right… We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans… some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded… that is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.
Justice Scalia, more than any modern justice sitting on the federal bench, understood that the individual American’s “unalienable rights” are inviolable and not subject to the whims of the democratic mob, their elected representatives or arbitrary decrees of a president of the United States. The Constitution’s Bill of Rights are vehemently anti-democratic on that score, requiring under law (Lex, Rex, “the law is king”) that “Congress shall make no law…”
Of the court’s propensity to legislate from the bench, Scalia said the Constitution “made Congress, not this Court responsible for both making laws and mending them.”
Criticized for not moderating his strict originalist interpretation of the Constitution, Scalia asked, “What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you’d like it to mean?”
With Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing, the freedom-loving individual lost a champion against the authoritarian impulses of the political majority and the elected minions acting on their behalf.