injusticebusters logo

United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia

"Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached." -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia -- Herrera v. Collins 506 US 390 1993

Injusticebusters.org Editorial: This is about the most stupid thing ever said. Coming from a devout Catholic and the highest judge in the land makes it that more stupid. Scalia died February 13, 2016. God have mercy on his soul and thank You for taking him to You.

August 2, 2018 In a new revision of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty the Supreme Pontiff [pope] Francis declared: Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person", and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

One wonders how Scalia would react to this statement from the utmost authority of his Roman Catholic church which is a complete contradiction of his statement.

Even Saint Pope John-Paul II [1978-2005] appealed to abolish the death penalty [calling it "cruel and unnecessary"] during the timeline when Scalia made his statement and was a Supreme Court Justice.


One justice's vision of role of the courts

Justice Antonin Scalia

WASHINGTON - During the presidential campaign, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia received a strange letter in his home mailbox.

It was a fundraising flier from Democratic strategist James Carville. The appeal invoked an issue apparently thought to be so frightening that it would prompt recipients to fork over massive amounts of money to the Kerry campaign.

The "terrifying" message came with the headline: "What Would You Think of CHIEF JUSTICE Scalia?"

When Scalia related the story at a recent gathering of the conservative Federalist Society here in Washington, the audience erupted into sustained and thunderous cheers and applause.

Not exactly the reaction Mr. Carville intended. But the incident sharply illustrates the gulf that exists between conservatives and liberals over the future direction of the US Supreme Court.

While Scalia is viewed by many liberals as a right-wing ideologue bent on overturning Roe v. Wade and other progressive decisions they favor, he enjoys a far more exalted status among a growing cadre of conservative law students, lawyers, professors, and judges. They see him as an intrepid legal warrior seeking to put rules back into the rule of law.

His is an approach to law that seeks to limit the ability of judges to use judicial power to impose their own value judgments and policy preferences on the nation. It is a form of judicial restraint embraced by President Bush, who has said he will seek to appoint future Supreme Court justices in the mold of Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

What might that mean for the high court and the future of American jurisprudence?

In his speech to the Federalist Society, Scalia offered a detailed description of his approach to constitutional interpretation. In his view, Supreme Court justices overstep not only their authority but also their expertise when they try to answer some of society's most divisive moral questions in legal cases such as abortion. He says moral issues should be resolved by elected political leaders, not unelected judges.

And he warns that the high court's willingness to take up moral questions that are still open to debate within society will increasingly mire the court in a political morass. It is a trend that has made judicial nominees targets in a bitterly partisan Senate confirmation process featuring character assassination and filibusters.

"One shudders to think what sort of political turmoil will greet the next nomination to the Supreme Court," Scalia told his Federalist Society audience, which included many individuals thought to be on a White House shortlist for a high-court post.

"The lesson is, in a truly democratic society - or at least the one in America - one way or another the people will have their say on significant social policy," he said. "If judges are routinely providing the society's definitive answers to moral questions on which there is ample room for debate ... then judges will be made politically accountable."

His comments come at a time when Washington is rife with speculation about Chief Justice William Rehnquist's ongoing battle with cancer and the potential for a Supreme Court vacancy.

Scalia was once considered a prime candidate for chief justice. But some analysts say the highly partisan nature of the Senate confirmation process and the intense focus on abortion by Senate Democrats make it unlikely that he could be elevated to the top job.

Other than offering the anecdote of the fundraising letter, Scalia did not mention the chief-justice issue during his lecture. Instead, he focused on what he sees as the problem of judges becoming involved in issues that he believes have no place in a court of law.

He offered examples from the US Supreme Court - abortion, gay rights, the death penalty, gender equality at military schools, and assisted suicide.

Such cases highlight competing visions of the scope of a judge's power to discover new constitutional rights or expand existing rights. Scalia believes judges must look to the text of a disputed constitutional provision and interpret it based on the intent of the drafters. To Scalia, a static constitution is a protection of American liberty because it sharply limits a judge's ability to amend the Constitution by mere judicial fiat.

His is a minority view. Many more judges in the US and overseas have adopted the approach that constitutions are living documents, open to contemporary interpretation to address modern concerns. Many see their job as working to achieve a measure of justice.

Scalia calls it "the power to do good." He denounces it as an open invitation to judicial activism.

"Under a regime of static law, it was not difficult to decide whether under the American Constitution there was a right to abortion or to homosexual conduct or to assisted suicide," he said. "When the Constitution was decided, all those acts were criminal throughout the United States and remained so for several centuries. There was no credible argument that the Constitution made those laws invalid."

"Of course, society remained free to decriminalize those acts [through legislation], as many states have," he added. "But under a static Constitution, judges could not do so."

The issue is not new. Every Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon has promised to appoint justices who believe in judicial restraint, Scalia says. "And every Democratic candidate since Michael Dukakis has promised to appoint justices who will uphold Roe v. Wade, which is synonymous with judicial activism."

He added that each year the conflict over the future of the court has grown more intense and more political. "I am not happy about the intrusion of politics into the judicial appointment process," Scalia said. "Frankly, however, I prefer it to the alternative, which is government by judicial aristocracy."


Protecting Catholic Identity Important, Scalia Says

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia (CAS '57) spoke about the importance of protecting Jesuit and Catholic identity at Georgetown Monday to about 400 people in Gaston Hall. University President John J. DeGioia concluded the lecture after one hour, presenting Scalia with a plaque with the unofficial Jesuit motto "ad majorem Dei gloriam" - "for the greater glory of God."

Scalia mentioned various institutions of higher learning - including Yale, Duke, Northwestern and Princeton - that transformed themselves from religious to non-denominational institutions.

"One of the reasons I was so pleased to participate in this commemoration of Jesuit Heritage Week is that the week and the long list of events that I see that are scheduled for the week persuade me that this institution is not losing its soul the same way," Scalia said. He said the move to secularize this country has been "distorted by social beliefs."

"I would be a different person if not for my years here," Scalia said of his experiences at Georgetown. He described the Jesuit identity as having three focuses: intellectualism, scholarship and activism. Scalia said he considered the third goal to be defined by the ad majorem Dei gloriam. He illustrated in the life of Ignatius Loyola, as the "most important principle." He said that it was just as important in the 20th century as in the 16th.

When asked about connecting his Catholic identity to his position on the death penalty, Scalia connected his view with that of St. Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine and Sir Thomas More. Scalia said that in the Catholic tradition, "the primary object of criminal punishment is retribution - to set right the disorder that has been introduced by the act of adrenaline," he said. Despite the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion, Scalia said, "It's not abortion where I am not part of the process. I am part of the process of imposing the death penalty."

The lecture ended after one hour and five questions from students followed. A dozen people, however, were still waiting in line to ask questions. Hannah Powell (SFS '05) said there were still several unanswered questions on her mind. "There's a lot of questions I wanted to ask," she said. "With a Catholic and Jesuit identity, what responsibility do we have to people of different faiths?"

When asked about a proposed gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender center at Georgetown, Scalia said, "I am not going to get into whatever the immediate controversies are on campus. I think you should be able to gather my thoughts on that from what I said in my talk."

An attendee also asked Scalia about the court's interpretation of separation of church and state. "There are so many of our traditions that constantly we speak the fact that we are religious people whose institutions presuppose a supreme being," he said. "We are rigidly neutral between one religion and another. My court has always opened its sessions, 'God save the United States.'"

Joe Piantedosi (MSB '02) said he enjoyed the speech. "It reminds us of where we came from in the tradition of Catholic higher education," he said. "It's a great way to start Jesuit Heritage Week."

At Georgetown, Scalia was president of the Mask & Bauble Dramatic Society. As class valedictorian, he graduated, summa cum laude with an A.B. in history. After being note editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, Scalia studied in Eastern Europe as a Sheldon Fellow. He has been a professor at the University of Virginia, Georgetown University, the University of Chicago and Stanford University. In 1982, President Reagan appointed Scalia to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Four years later, Reagan appointed Scalia to the Supreme Court.

Scalia spoke as the alumnus spotlight for Jesuit Heritage Week.


God, Death and Justice Antonin Scalia

SUPREME COURT Justice Antonin Scalia, in a recent article published in a religion journal called First Things, offered thoughts on the moral foundations of the death penalty and the relationship between God and the democratic state. Justice Scalia is one of the court's most impressive intellects: His views command attention. In this instance, they are striking for a different reason: their radicalism.

The purpose of Justice Scalia's article, published in May and adapted from an earlier speech, is not to defend the death penalty -- about which the justice professes neutrality -- but to argue "that I do not find [it] immoral." In doing so, Mr. Scalia -- a devout Catholic -- aligns himself with the moral views of St. Paul, whom he paraphrases as saying "that government . . . derives its moral authority from God. It is the 'minister of God' with powers to 'revenge,' to 'execute wrath,' including even wrath by the sword (which is unmistakably a reference to the death penalty)." This view of government, the justice acknowledges, was complicated by the emergence of democracy. But, he insists, "The reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation to it, but the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible."

This ambiguous statement is disturbing. America is a society built around suspicion of government action, not worship of it. The source of power is popular sovereignty, not a divine right to rule. While popular sovereignty -- as the Declaration of Independence announces -- presupposes that the people were "endowed by their creator" with their rights, the American state was not conceived as an arm of God.

Almost as remarkable is Justice Scalia's contempt for the past century of Supreme Court opinions concerning the meaning of the Eighth Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." He laments the court's decisions, for example, abolishing the death penalty for crimes other than murder and imposing age limitations on the penalty's application. These are examples of the "living Constitution," he sneers, the idea that the scope of the prohibition shifts with society's judgments about cruelty.

In his view, the Constitution "is not living but dead -- or, as I prefer to put it, enduring." It prohibits only those torturous deaths that it banned when adopted. The death penalty "was clearly permitted when the Eighth Amendment was adopted (not merely for murder, by the way, but for all felonies -- including, for example, horse-thieving, as anyone can verify by watching a Western movie). And so it is clearly permitted today." Translation: Execute children for shoplifting? Fine by the Constitution.

The Court rejected the static vision of the amendment as far back as 1910. Justice Scalia refights an old, and long-lost, battle. Since he has neither sought to reopen this battle in his judicial opinions nor assert that the government's source of power is divine, it may be wrong to put too much weight on the views expressed in this article. But they are worth bearing in mind, the next time Justice Scalia pronounces on the death penalty or on the relationship between church and state