Antonin Scalia biography
Antonin Scalia is a U.S. Supreme Court Justice member born on March 11, 1936 in Trenton, New Jersey. He was a practicing lawyer in the 1960s, and then worked in public service in the '70s with roles in President Nixon’s general counsel and as the Assistant Attorney General. In the '80s he became a part of President Ronald Reagan’s Court of Appeals. In 1986 the President confirmed him as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Antonin Gregory Scalia is the only child of Salvadore Eugene and Catherine Panaro Scalia. His father emigrated from Sicily as a teenager and came through Ellis Island. The older Scalia got a college education and became a professor of romance languages at Brooklyn College. Antonin Scalia's mother was first generation Italian-American who worked as an elementary school teacher until Antonin was born. Early in life, he acquired the nickname "Nino," partly in remembrance of his grandfather, for whom he was named.
As a young boy, Antonin Scalia enjoyed being an only child in his immediate family as well as his extended family, a rare occurrence in Italian Catholic families at the time. Scalia has admitted that being the center of so much attention gave him a very secure feeling growing up. But being the only child also meant everyone's expectations were put squarely on him. His father was a major influence in his life providing him with much of his core values of conservatism, hard work, and discipline that he exhibits as an adult.
Antonin Scalia grew up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood of Queens in New York City. He attended a public elementary school where he was a straight A student. He went on to Xavier High School in Manhattan, a military school run by the Jesuit order of the Catholic Church. It was there that Scalia’s conservatism and deep religious conviction was further developed. Self-described as "not a cool kid," he spent much of his time absorbed in his school work, and he continued to receive high academic marks and finished first in his class.
In 1953, Antonin Scalia enrolled at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he graduated valedictorian and summa cum laude with a bachelors degree in History in 1957. After graduation, he went on to study at Harvard Law School and during his final year he met his wife of 48 years, Maureen McCarthy, an undergraduate at Radcliffe College. The marriage has flourished with nine children and 28 grandchildren.
Antonin Scalia began his legal career at the law offices of Jones, Day, Cockley, and Reavis in Cleveland, Ohio in 1961. He was highly regarded and would likely have made partner, but like his father, he longed to teach. In 1967, he took a professor position at the University of Virginia Law School and moved his family to Charlottesville, Virginia.
In 1972, Antonin Scalia entered public service when President Nixon appointed him general counsel for the Office of Telecommunications Policy where he helped formulate regulations for the cable television industry.
In the immediate aftermath of the Watergate scandal in 1974, Scalia was appointed Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Council. In this role, he testified before congressional committees on behalf of the Ford administration over executive privilege. He later argued his first and only case before the U.S. Supreme Court in Alfred Dunhill of London, Inc. v. Republic of Cuba on behalf of the U.S. Government and won the case.
After a brief stint at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a teaching post at the University of Chicago Law School, Antonin Scalia accepted an appointment from President Ronald Reagan on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1982. There he built a conservative record and won high praise in legal circles for his powerful and witty writing, often critical of the U.S. Supreme Court he was bound to follow as a lower court judge. This drew the attention of Reagan administration officials who put him on the short list for a Supreme Court nomination. Antonin Scalia was confirmed Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986.
Supreme Court Justice
As a Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia is considered one of the more prominent legal thinkers of his generation. It is also through his blunt (some would say scathing) dissents that he has earned a reputation as combative and insulting. And yet to many who know him personally, he is unpretentious, charming, and funny. One of his closest friends on the Supreme Court is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose political views are vastly different from his own.
Justice Scalia adheres to the judicial philosophy of originalism which holds that the Constitution should be interpreted in terms of what it meant to those who ratified it over two centuries ago. This is in direct conflict with the more commonly held view that the Constitution is a "living document," allowing courts to take into account the views of contemporary society. In Justice Scalia's view the Constitution is not supposed to facilitate change, but to impede change to citizens' basic fundamental rights and responsibilities. Justice Scalia abhors "judicial activism" and believes the place for implementing change is in the legislature, where the will of the people is represented.
Critics say that such a legal interpretation is an impediment toward progress and point to many different examples of where the Constitution's founders held views repugnant to today's standards such as racial and gender equality. Scalia's opponents stress that by interpreting the Constitution in its original form, any progressive law would be declared unconstitutional because it doesn't adhere to the original intent of the founders. For these reasons, Justice Scalia is oftentimes accused of allowing his conservative views to influence his legal judgment.
Antonin Scalia's performance on the bench has exemplified judicial restraint. However, he has puzzled conservatives and pleased liberals by voting to uphold free speech, as in the Texas flag-burning case and striking down a prohibition on hate speech.
He has strived to limit the right to an abortion, rejecting the notion that his position is religiously motivated, stressing that the issue should be decided in the legislature. He makes no apology to the accusation that his role in the case of Bush v. Gore handed the 2000 election to George W. Bush, telling critics it was the right thing to do. He also has confounded many Court observers by his recusal record where he withdrew from cases whose topic would interest him, such as the Pledge of Allegiance case of Elk Grove v. Newdow, but refused to when there was a suspected conflict interest as in the case of Cheney v. US District Court for DC, even though he had a close personal relationship with then-Vice-president Dick Cheney.
Justice Antonin Scalia is characterized as the intellectual anchor of the court’s conservative majority. In his quarter century on the court he has become a political celebrity, especially with socially and politically conservative groups. While he has expressed frustration in the past over other justices who don’t adhere to his way of thinking, he has and will continue to make an impression on the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts.