Trevor Burrus on Justice Scalia
Justice Scalia died on February 13th. For those who knew him, it’s a shock. It sounds a bit weird, but I think that it was Bill Clinton who put it best, by saying that “he was so full of life and so vigorous. I thought he’d live to be 100.”
Many obituaries have already been published, and many more will be in the next few days. The word “giant” has been frequently used. On a different note, it is somehow uplifting to see how many people (Clinton included) pointed out that Scalia was at a time a forceful defender of his beliefs, and a warm man who befriended intellectual opponents and friends alike. We very often refer to intellectual debates as “the war of ideas.” But ideas do not make war; people do. Some of us think that the ultimate test of the strength of their own beliefs is how nasty they can be to those who do not share them. Scalia, a passionate Sicilian, knew the difference between believing in something and simply being partisan.
Trevor Burrus, the managing editor of the Cato Supreme Court Review, published a most thoughtful and learned obituary of Scalia. Trevor maintains that “Justice Scalia was one of the last of a dying breed: an iconoclastic Supreme Court justice with hard and fast principles, a blazing intellect, and the wherewithal to carry an entire school of jurisprudence on his back.” He adds, sadly: “In other words, someone who could never be confirmed today, no matter which party nominated them.”