Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia Passes Away At 79

Photo: REX Shutterstock.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia passed away of natural causes on Saturday, February 13, the San Antonio Express-News reports. The Justice was staying at Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort in the Big Bend region south of Marfa, TX, at the time of his death. His passing was confirmed by a release from the office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who said, in part, "Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law."

Justice Scalia grew up and attended school in Queens. He matriculated from Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and graduated as valedictorian and summa cum laude. He went on to Harvard Law School.

Justice Scalia was appointed to the Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, after serving as President Nixon's general counsel and Assistant Attorney General of the United States. He was the longest-serving justice on the current court.
He is survived by his wife, Maureen, and nine children.

Justice Scalia’s approach to the law was heavily rooted in a literal interpretation of text and statute. In a May 2015 interview with the New York Public Library, his colleague, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, described his legal philosophy as a series of "isms."

“Originalism, textualism, literalism — it goes by a variety of ‘-isms,’” she said. “But as is, the approach says that we are limited to what the text and the statute says, without looking at the statute’s purpose, or the words in full context. If the words say one thing and the context might suggest something else, most of the time, you have to follow the words. And if it’s a constitutional issue, you look at what the founding fathers were thinking about, and the Constitution applies only to that. “

Though his rulings, votes, and dissents were often infuriating to liberal Americans, his fellow jurist Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was a friend as well as a coworker, explained to the Wall Street Journal in 2014, "Scalia is often criticized by people who would not be labeled conservative. Liberals don’t count his Fourth Amendment cases or the confrontation clause cases. He is one of the most pro-Fourth Amendment judges on the court."

He passionately upheld the Fourth Amendment, against unreasonable search and seizure in the 2001 case Kyllo v. United States, supporting the ruling that police must have a warrant to use thermal imaging on a suspect's home and the same in the 2011 case United States v. Jones, with regard to police tracking suspect movements via GPS. He railed against the warrantless drug testing of federal employees in the 1989 case National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab. And in 2012's Maryland v. King, Scalia dissented, insisting that the founding fathers of the country would strongly object to the random gathering of DNA without limit of scope.
President George W. Bush called him a "towering figure" in a statement following his death and said, "He brought intellect, good judgment, and wit to the bench, and he will be missed by his colleagues and our country."
Justice Scalia made headlines with his dissents in recent high-profile court cases, dissenting against the majority in the 2015 case that made gay marriage legal. He declared the ruling not of great "personal importance," but that he objected to the ruling on the grounds that it was "constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine" who were not embodied with the power to make this decision. In fact, he protested, it flew in direct opposition to the Declaration of Independence, which grants citizens the freedom to govern themselves.

On behalf of the Supreme Court and retired justices, Chief Justice John Roberts called Scalia, "an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues," in a statement.

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