U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died on Saturday, Feb. 13 at the age of 79 due to natural causes. Scalia was on vacation at a Texas resort when he pased away in his sleep.
Scalia had been on a hunting trip with a group of friends. According to a government official, Scalia told his friends that he wasn’t feeling well before bed. He didn’t get up for breakfast the following morning, and the group went off without him. When his friends went to wake him later that afternoon, Scalia was unresposive. Scalia’s family, along with the Texas Justice of Peace, decided not to perform an autopsy.
Scalia was born in Trenton, N.J. in 1936 and attended Georgetown University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. After Georgetown, Scalia studied law at Harvard University, where he graduated with his Juris Doctor in 1960.
Scalia began his legal career at an international law firm in Cleveland, Ohio. In early 1982, Scalia was offered a seat on the Chicago-based United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in and declined, hoping to be appointed to the highly influential United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Later that year, President Ronald Reagan offered Scalia a seat on the D.C. Circuit, which he accepted. Scalia was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 5, 1982 and was sworn in on Aug. 17, 1982.
Scalia was nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court as an Associate Justice by President Regan, replacing Associate Justice William Rhenquist, who was to become Chief Justice.
Scalia was officially confirmed by the Senate, whom voted 98-0, on Sept. 17, 1986, electing the first Italian-American Justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. He took his seat on Sept. 26, 1986 and served up until his death.
Scalia’s unexpected death leaves a vacancy on the Supreme Court, with eight justices appointed instead of nine. President Barack Obama has stated that he intends to nominate a qualified candidate to fill Scalia’s spot.
The Supreme Court is currently 4-4. Obama’s nomination could swing the court 5-4 and give the Senate a more liberal leaning.
Republicans, however, feel the job should stay open until a new president takes office in January of 2017, hoping to elect a Republican to replace Scalia and give the Senate a more conservative lean.
“I would love to see another conservative on the bench, but with such divide in the country, we may have to settle for moderates and centrists to please everyone on both sides,” said sophomore Matt Carbonaro.
Some will remember Scalia in a positive light.
“Scalia’s lasting legacy will be for his dissents in my opinion. He was not afraid to express his opinions,” said Carbonaro. “I believe Scalia was influenced by his religion, especially on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion. There will never be another Scalia. I mean, we have Republicans on the bench, but he was by far the most conservative.”
Others, however, are hoping for a different kind of replacement.
“During his time as a Supreme Court justice, Scalia was known for his bigotry,” said sophomore Casey Tobias. “Throughout his career, he said things like black students don’t belong at elite schools and compared homosexuality to incest and bestiality. He was unapologetically racist and homophobic, and I just hope whoever is named as the next nominee is more reasonable.”
The funeral for Scalia took place on Saturday, Feb 20. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Vice President Joe Biden, former Vice President Dick Cheyney, and many other dignitaries and justices were at the funeral to pay their final respects.
Kevin Harper is a fourth-year student majoring in professional studies. He can be reached at KH818254@wcupa.edu.