Antonin Scalia’s Lasting Influence

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tags: Supreme Court, Scalia, SCOTUS



Antonin Scalia was not a great shaper of laws during his nearly 30 years on the United States Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the brilliant and polarizing conservative, who died on Saturday at 79, ranks among the most influential justices of modern times.

How can that be?

The great shapers of law are the justices who excel at building majorities in support of their opinions. This involves a lot of strategy, a fair amount of give-and-take, a knack for compromise. Scalia served for 20 years with one of the masters of this approach, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whose mark is deeply etched into the jurisprudence of abortion, affirmative action, criminal law, elections—and more.

Scalia was nothing like that. Fiercely committed to his “originalist” philosophy, in which the meaning of the Constitution never changes with changing times, Scalia was allergic to compromise. He stuck fast to even his most awkward positions, like his theory that the Constitution does not, strictly speaking, protect innocent people from being executed for crimes they did not commit.




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