Scalia: Portrait of a Man & Jurist [Excerpt]
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Scalia: Portrait of a Man & Jurist [Excerpt]


My hand is on a, if you get real close you
can see the title, it’s The Federalist and above that is uh, uh Webster’s Second International
Dictionary. I don’t like the Third. And behind that is the wedding portrait of
Maureen. And down at the bottom is uh, is uh, uh a
well-known, uh, portrait of Thomas More. He is one of my, one of my heroes. It’s a tradition, uh, at the Court, to have
the law clerks of the justice commission a portrait which will be hung at the Court when
the justice dies or retires. He was a principled man. He was a man of faith, uh, he was a patriot,
um, and he was brave. He was magnificent. He was, uh, personally very warm, very funny,
generous. He had a lot of, um, joy of life, you know,
joie de vivre. He was a lion. He was one of the great scholars that we looked
up to that gave some of us a degree of excitement about, about the law. It was not just a profession. He read every single thing, every line. He might call you about it, “Clarence, why’d
you use that word in the last space. I can’t join that, that’s not the proper
usage of the word.” [laughter] Oh my gosh. He would give me [laughter]. He was a force. He was a huge personality, uh, that’s true
as a human being and it’s true as a justice. He was funny, like quick. I mean just, uh, he would come out with these
one-liners and you would think how did anybody think of that so, so fast. He would say something or pass a note that
was hilarious and so I had to pinch myself very hard so I wouldn’t burst out laughing. This is a man who absolutely loved his wife,
Maureen. He loved his kids and grandkids. There are nine children and the uh, there
are five boys, four girls, nineteen years from top to bottom. He said he always wanted a baseball team,
so he got the baseball team. We’d all gang up on him. And, and I could just see him laughing. Almost like, “I’m really proud of that,
[chuckle] look at, look at how I raised them to make fun of me.” [laughing] He loved to sing. He loved music and, and to sit down at the
piano and, uh, bang out songs. He would actually fairly often walk around
the house just, you know, singing, you know, getting ready to go somewhere and singing. And it could be disruptive, but um. [laughter]
He drove very fast. People who drove with him, uh, were often
terrified when the trip was over and they were ready to kiss the ground that they had
actually gotten there. Mom and Dad were very devout Catholics who
believed that any children that God blessed them with would be welcome and raised as Catholics,
which is what they did. He was very public about his faith and encouraged
others to be public about his faith. Uh, he at the same time had a respect for
the pluralism of the nation and, and how the constitution, um, guards that. He felt that as a Catholic he had certain
responsibilities as a Catholic but those were not what guided his decisions. He was a natural teacher. At the dinner table we, we, we learned, hopefully,
we learned etiquette. Uh, but I think we, we also learned grammar,
and um, uh, uh, religion and theology and philosophy. Be home for dinner. Be home for dinner. That is when the little monsters are civilized. [laughter] They do not, they do not grow up
civilized. It it is a process and much of that process
occurs at uh, at family dinner. We had our fightbacks. We would try not to go to mass on Sunday,
pretend that we were sick, or busy. But we, we would get there one way or another. My father loved to teach. My father said to me, “What’s your, what’s
your career plan?” And I was kind of taken aback and I said,
“Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure I, I have one.” I said, “Well, what was yours?” And he kind of was taken aback, and uh, paused
for a minute and he said, uh, “To be a professor.” By this point he was on the Supreme Court,
so I said, “Well I guess it’s not going so well for you then is it?” If you went in his office, and you saw him
set up there when he got going, with all the drafts out and the screen and the dictionary. In your mind’s eye you could see him chuckling,
you know. Like, he would be writing and he would think,
“Oh, that’s a great line, that’s a great line!” He was absolutely in his world and his element. Justice Scalia’s clerkship was the best
clerkship at the court because every day was like an Italian street fight. He really loved the clerks, it was a chambers
where the law clerks were expected to disagree with him. He wanted to kind of level with you as a law
clerk, and if you weren’t disagreeing with him enough or if you weren’t disagreeing
enough with you and, with your other co-clerks, there was probably something wrong. Justice Scalia would bound out of his chambers
and he’d say, you know, “Who are you clerking for?” And I’d say “I’m clerking for Chief
Justice Roberts.” And he’d say, “Ok! Then let’s talk about this Fourth Amendment
case.” He engaged in, uh, every bit as vigorous a
debate with his law clerks as he did with advocates in the courtroom. It’s fundamental stuff, whether you think
the constitution bears its original meaning or you think it changes. All my colleagues have thought about this
for years. I’m not going to change their minds on those
fundamental questions. If they think it’s a morphing constitution,
that it means whatever they think it ought to mean today, they’re not going to change
that. “My God, Nino, yes! Originalism! Why didn’t I think of that before?” You read all these opinions in law school
and one is as dry as the next, and then you get to Justice Scalia and the words just leap
off the page. Everybody can understand what he was talking
about, the common sense behind it. You are writing, you know, for the case books,
you know, for the student reading the opinion at the University of Chicago 5, 10, 15 years
later. Some high school student who wants to know
more about the Fourth Amendment can pick up a Scalia opinion and, and get excited about
it. When I would sit down and write an opinion,
I always, like, thought of like, having a little Nino on my right shoulder. And the Nino would say, “Oh, that’s garbage,
you know, because of, X, Y, or Z.” And it helped me a lot in writing to always
have in my ear, um, uh, the criticisms that I thought Nino would make, because are usually
the most trenchant, powerful criticisms. Once asked how we could be friends given our
disagreement on lots of things, Justice Scalia answered, “I attack ideas. I don’t attack
people. Some very good people have some very bad ideas,
and if you can’t separate the two, you gotta get another day job.” I am so glad that I had the experience of
being on the court with Nino. I feel as though I learned an incredible amount
from him. Things about judicial method, about substantive
areas of law, but mostly, I learned things about, uh, how to be an effective justice. He was totally about this job, and about trying
to get it right, and it mattered to him, everything mattered. He’s going to be remembered, uh, by lawyers,
uh, academics and judges, uh, long after the people he sat on the bench with are forgotten. I miss him every day, he was inimitable.

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