Justice Antonin Scalia passed away suddenly on February 13, leaving behind a legacy of intellectual conservatism, and great zeal admired by liberal and conservative peers alike. Scalia was found dead in his room at the luxurious Cibolo Creek Ranch in South Texas, where he had been on a hunting trip with friends. Local authorities pronounced him dead of “natural causes,” as he had a host of chronic conditions known to his doctors in Washington. No autopsy was performed, per request of the Scalia family.
Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, and has since become known for his strong originalist arguments; Justice Scalia firmly believed that the interpretation of the text of the constitution should evolve over time. This view led him to criticize majority opinions for things such as affirmative action, gay marriage, and abortion, which he felt were not inherently granted by the constitution, and conclude that the Supreme Court was overstepping its bounds by legalizing them at the federal level.
Perhaps what he will be most remembered for by his colleagues will be his style: In all of his dissenting opinions, Scalia took great care to find just the right phrases, never leaving any ambiguity as to why the majority opinion was incorrect. Most recently, he will be remembered for calling the Court’s decisions to uphold the Affordable Care Act “applesauce.” He was greatly admired by many for this wit, despite the often sharpness of his tongue.
However, Scalia was more than just admired by his peers for his intellect. He was close friends with many of them, as shown by his taking liberal justice Elena Kagan skeet shooting soon after she joined the court. He was also notably close with liberal opponent Ruth Bader Ginsberg. In a statement following Scalia’s death, Ginsburg recalled their shared love for opera, and their dear friendship, which began in their days together in the D.C. district courts. She appropriately called Scalia “a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh.”
Scalia was not only a man of deep commitment on the bench and in his friendships, he was also known for being extremely strong in his Roman Catholic faith. In much the same way that he revered the history and tradition of the constitution, he spoke about his appreciation for the ancient traditions of the Church, and regularly attended Latin masses. His funeral was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC and was performed by one of his nine children--the Rev. Paul Scalia of the diocese of Arlington, VA. In his eulogy, Rev. Scalia spoke of the way his father’s faith affected his work: “ Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and public servant he became. God blessed him with the desire to be the country’s good servant because he was God’s first.” The funeral was attended by notable conservative politicians from many generations, including Republican hopeful Ted Cruz, and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Vice President Joe Biden, who shares Scalia’s Catholic faith and was close friends with the Justice’s family, was also in attendance.
Scalia’s death has been marked by much controversy, due to the fact that it leaves the court evenly divided between liberals and conservatives. With less than a year left in office, the question has been raised as to whether President Obama should cede the responsibility of nominating the next Justice to his successor. However, despite backlash from Republicans in congress and threats that they will filibuster his choice, Obama has said he will still go through with the regular nomination process. With controversial cases on abortion, affirmative action, and potentially immigration scheduled for 2016, leaving the court divided would not only be unprecedented, but also potentially troublesome.