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February 13, 2016

So shocking and so sad: "Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court justice, dies at 79"

Images (3)My otherwise calm afternoon of watching college basketball and trying to work on a death penalty article took a shocking turn when I heard this news: "U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a leading conservative voice on the high court, has died at the age of 79."  Here is more via CNN about how Justice Scalia died and some context for this sad and shocking news:

Scalia died in his sleep during a visit to Texas. A government official said Scalia went to bed Friday night and told friends he wasn't feeling well. Saturday morning, he didn't get up for breakfast. And the group he was with for a hunting trip left without him. Someone at the ranch went in to check on him and found him unresponsive....

In a statement, Chief Justice John Roberts said he and other justices were "saddened" to hear of Scalia's passing. "He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues," Roberts said. "His passing is a great loss to the court and the country he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family."

Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz said President Barack Obama was informed of Scalia's passing on Saturday afternoon. "The President and First Lady extend their deepest condolences to Justice Scalia's family. We'll have additional reaction from the President later today," Schultz said.

Scalia's death in an election year sets up a titanic confirmation tussle over his successor on the bench. The already challenging task of getting a Democratic president's nominee through a Republican-controlled Senate will made even more difficult as the fight over Scalia's replacement will emerge as a dominant theme of an already wild presidential election.

"His departure leaves a huge political fight in the offing because this is a court with five Republican appointees (and) four Democratic appointees," CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said....

He will be best known, perhaps, for his landmark decision District of Columbia v. Heller, holding that the Second Amendment protects the right to posses a firearm at home. He was a critic of Roe v. Wade and dissented in last term's same-sex marriage cases....

The jaunty jurist was able to light up, or ignite, a room with his often brash demeanor and wicked sense of humor, grounded always in a profound respect for American law and its constitutional traditions. "What can I say," was a favorite phrase of the man colleagues knew as "Nino." As it turned out, quite a lot. "Justice Scalia had an irrepressibly pugnacious personality," said Edward Lazarus, a former Supreme Clerk law clerk who wrote about the experience in "Closed Chambers."

A sharp mind combined with a sharp pen allowed Scalia to make his point, both to the pleasure and disappointment of his colleagues and the public. "He could be belligerent, he was obviously very candid about he felt about things," said Joan Biskupic, a USA Today reporter who wrote a biography of Scalia. "He loved to call it as he saw it, completely not politically correct. In fact, he prided himself on not being PC on the bench in court."

There are so many timely and important jurisprudential and political issues that are now kicking around my head, but they can all wait for posts later this weekend. For now, though, I will just express my own sadness at the loss of an intellectual and judicial giant.  I did not agree with all his views and opinion (though his work on sentencing issues always impressed me), but I always respected and appreciated his efforts and energies.

February 13, 2016 at 06:29 PM | Permalink


Wow...poor Ginsburg, to lose her husband and now her lover...(snark). I admired and detested Scalia in equal measure but for those who cared about rulings like Crawford and so on, there most avid defender is now dead. I do not see his passing as good news for criminal defendants.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 13, 2016 8:37:56 PM

Depends on what criminal defendants you mean. And, even then, Kagan and Sotomayor often joined with Scalia on the pro-defendant issues, so the new justice net should be at least as pro-defendant.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 13, 2016 9:15:21 PM

There is more than votes Joe, there is also passion and commitment. It has yet to be seen if those two share that aspect of Scalia.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 13, 2016 9:24:41 PM

Yes, Scalia is passionately anti-defendant on various issues, especially the death penalty.

Mix that with liberal justices still providing the votes on other issues, let's not let Scalia's pro-defendant rulings on certain matters confuse us.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 13, 2016 10:16:32 PM

Rulings like Crawford? You mean Crawford v Washington where the vote was 9-0?

Posted by: Abe P | Feb 13, 2016 11:42:27 PM

Only two of the Booker merits majority are left on the Court.

Posted by: Jay | Feb 14, 2016 12:00:06 AM

Mitch McConnell the hillbilly from Kentucky or somesuch place says he will not let the Senate vote on any nominee untl the next President is elected. Obama is obligated to nominate someone. Obama should nominate McConnell. Then all Democrats can oppose his nomination. The hillbilly will then be put in his plae in history. Look at that face on the photos! Meanwhile we need a seat to be filled and not wait two years.

Posted by: JackMehoff | Feb 14, 2016 10:15:47 AM

There are not that many folks in one's life, those strangers that are not, where you have as sense that you know them, having not, that when you hear of their passing, there is a weight on you chest and the floor comes out from under your feet.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp; | Feb 15, 2016 7:15:32 AM

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