Reflections Of Conservative Icon Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Dec 29, 2016
Originally published on December 30, 2016 12:25 pm
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once called the solicitor general's argument gobbledygook.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

He deemed a majority opinion pure applesauce.

SIEGEL: And he said he'd rather hide his head in a bag than support the court's 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

SHAPIRO: We're taking a moment to remember Antonin Scalia, one of the most influential people who died this year.

SIEGEL: He was a conservative hero during his 29 years on the nation's highest court, notorious for his pointed writing from the bench. He was also known for his close friendship with fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They both enjoyed opera and rode an elephant together on a trip to India.

SHAPIRO: All the more striking because their views of the Constitution could not have been more different. Here's Scalia and Ginsburg from an event last year moderated by NPR's Nina Totenberg.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: You famously said in an interview with me that your - the Constitution that you abide by is dead. What did you mean by that?

ANTONIN SCALIA: You know, I have to get a better word than dead.

(LAUGHTER)

SCALIA: What I meant by it is that it is enduring. And to my mind, no constitution is living unless it is enduring. If it is subject to whimsical change by five out of nine votes on the Supreme Court who decide that it ought to mean something different from what the people voted on when they - when they ratified the provision of the Constitution, that is not a living constitution. That is a dead constitution, one that does not endure.

RUTH BADER GINSBURG: There's a - there's a certain...

SCALIA: That's what I mean by it.

GINSBURG: There's a certain problem with that view when you - where you said the people.

SIEGEL: The people, Ginsburg argued, really only included one constituency back in 1787 - white property-owning men. That's evidence, she says, that the founders' ideas were meant to develop as society developed. Scalia was unmoved.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCALIA: Nobody thought that the Constitution would morph. And to mean whatever five of the justices - in those days, there were only five justices on the Supreme Court - but whatever a majority of the Supreme Court thought it ought to mean to keep up-to-date? I mean, if that provision had been in the Constitution, due process of law shall mean whatever a majority of the Supreme Court from time to time shall deem it to mean, I mean, that provision...

GINSBURG: I have to disagree that it's the Supreme Court because...

SHAPIRO: The debate went on and on until...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCALIA: We're not going to agree on this, Ruth. You realize that?

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He died in February at the age of 79.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET'S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF")

BILLIE HOLIDAY: (Singing) You say either and I say either. You say neither and I say neither. Either, either. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.