21 Quotes to Remember Justice Antonin Scalia

By District of Columbia Bar

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Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away at the age of 79 on a visit to a ranch in Texas. He was considered to be one of the most outspoken and controversial Justices. Here are 21 quotes that Justice Scalia has said throughout his term on the Supreme Court: 

1. If you think aficionados of a living Constitution want to bring you flexibility, think again. You think the death penalty is a good idea? Persuade your fellow citizens to adopt it. You want a right to abortion? Persuade your fellow citizens and enact it. That's flexibility. (Speech given at the Woodrow Wilson Center)

2. Context always matters. Let us not forget, however, why context matters: It is a tool for understanding the terms of the law, not an excuse for rewriting them. (King v. Burwell)

3. If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things? (Responding to a gay student’s question about same-sex marriage)

4. As to the Court's invocation of the Lemon test: Like some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried, Lemon stalks our Establishment Clause jurisprudence once again, frightening the little children and school attorneys of Center Moriches Union Free School District. ... Over the years, however, no fewer than five of the currently sitting Justices have, in their own opinions, personally driven pencils through the creature's heart. (Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District)

5. It has come to this. Called upon to explore the jurisprudential twilight zone between two errant lines of precedent, we confront a frighteningly bizarre question: Does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbid what its text plainly requires? Needless to say (except that this case obliges us to say it), the question answers itself. ‘The Constitution proscribes government discrimination on the basis of race, and state-provided education is no exception.’ (Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action)

6. The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. (Obergefell v. Hodges)

7. Those who believe that racial preferences can help to 'even the score' display, and reinforce, a manner of thinking about race that was the source of the injustice and that will, if it endures within our society, be the source of more injustice still. (Richmond v. Croson Co.)

8. Words do have a limited range of meaning, and no interpretation that goes beyond that range is permissible. (Speech at Princeton University)

9. The tradition of having government-funded military schools for men is as well rooted in the traditions of this country as the tradition of sending only men into military combat. The people may decide to change the one tradition, like the other, through democratic processes; but the assertion that either tradition has been unconstitutional through the centuries is not law, but politics-smuggled-into-law. (United States v. Virginia)

10. My difficulty with Roe v. Wade is a legal rather than a moral one. I do not believe – and no one believed for 200 years – that the Constitution contains a right to abortion. And if a state were to permit abortion on demand, I would and could in good conscience vote against an attempt to invalidate that law, for the same reason that I vote against invalidation of laws that contradict Roe v. Wade; namely, simply because the Constitution gives the federal government and, hence, me no power over the matter. (Call for Reckoning - Pew Forum conference)

11. Even in the legal utopia imagined by the Court—a world in which all lawyers are responsible and no lawyers make mistakes—it is easy to imagine ways in which the issue could come back to the circuit court. (Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens)

12. All the provisions of the Bill of Rights set forth the rights of individual men and women – not, for example, of trees or polar bears. (Citizens United v. FEC)

13. Robert F. Kennedy used to say, 'Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not?'; that outlook has become a far too common and destructive approach to interpreting the law (Speech at Catholic University, Columbus School of Law)

14. Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist. That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth. (Massachusetts vs. EPA)

15. The point at which life becomes 'worthless,' and the point at which the means necessary to preserve it become 'extraordinary' or 'inappropriate,' are neither set forth in the Constitution nor known to the nine Justices of this Court any better than they are known to nine people picked at random from the Kansas City telephone directory...[therefore] even when it is demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that a patient no longer wishes certain measures to be taken to preserve her life, it is up to the citizens of Missouri to decide, through their elected representatives, whether that wish will be honored. (Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health)

16. The Court’s distorted view creates an expansive exception to the Confrontation Clause for violent crimes. Because Bryant posed a continuing threat to public safety in the Court’s imagination, the emergency persisted for confrontation purposes at least until the police learned his ‘motive for and location after the shooting.’ ... This is a dangerous definition of emergency ... (Michigan v. Bryant)

17. A law can be both economic folly and constitutional. (CTS Corp. v. Dynamics Corp. of America)

18. Individuals who have been wronged by unlawful racial discrimination should be made whole; but under our Constitution there can be no such thing as either a creditor or a debtor race. That concept is alien to the Constitution's focus upon the individual . . . . To pursue the concept of racial entitlement - even for the most admirable and benign of purposes - is to reinforce and preserve for future mischief the way of thinking that produced race slavery, race privilege and race hatred. In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American. (Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña)

19. The Constitution contains no right to abortion. It is not to be found in the longstanding traditions of our society, nor can it be logically deduced from the text of the Constitution - not, that is, without volunteering a judicial answer to the nonjusticiable question of when human life begins. Leaving this matter to the political process is not only legally correct, it is pragmatically so. That alone - and not lawyerly dissection of federal judicial precedents - can produce compromises satisfying a sufficient mass of the electorate that this deeply felt issue will cease distorting the remainder of our democratic process. The Court should end its disruptive intrusion into this field as soon as possible. (Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health)

20. It really enrages me to hear people refer to it as a politicized court. Maybe the legislature and the president are not as stupid as you think.They assuredly picked those people because of who they are and when they get to the court they remain who they were. (He said after the court was accused of being politicized)

21. A man who has made no enemies is probably not a very good man. (Said in an interview with Charlie Rose)