By Kevin O'Keefe

Top 10 in Law Blogs: Remembering Justice Antonin Scalia

In lieu of a traditional top 10 today, Kevin asked me to pull together a list of posts that remembered Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away this past Saturday. Decidedly conservative, Justice Scalia’s legacy will no doubt be remembered with mixed emotions, but it’s hard to deny that the man was as witty and intelligent as they come, and that he will be missed.

I’ve got my own post up on LXBN about the man and the impact he leaves behind, but below is a round-up of reactions and words that Kevin and I collected over the past few days.

When I was a law student, Scalia opinions were the first ones I remember reading and enjoying. I won’t say that I agreed with them all. But they were all brilliant. And his originalist philosophy was always consistent.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has gone to his eternal reward. The front page of The New York Times today quoted Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner as writing in 2011 that Justice Scalia was “the most influential justice of the last quarter century.” Whether you agreed with his views or not, he was in my estimation the best writer of legal opinions that I have ever read. Period.

Because to read his decisions was to appreciate a craft of writing that I could never even hope to replicate.  Even on the many decisions of his that I disagreed with, I wanted to read his dissents to see what the weaknesses were in the majority’s arguments.

Justice Scalia spoke at a dinner I attended at the World War II museum in New Orleans, along with Buck Ruffin who was then unopposed to become president-elect of the Georgia Bar, and our wives. David Gambrell, a former Georgia Bar president and U.S. Senator, was receiving a lifetime achievement award at that dinner. Justice Scalia gave an inspirational speech about the Constitution, which he sought to interpret according to the original meaning of the words of the text rather than as some sort of free floating Rorschach ink blot test. I later borrowed liberally from Justice Scalia’s remarks in a president’s column in the Georgia Bar Journal.

With Justice Scalia’s passing, the Supreme Court is now split down the middle, with four liberal justices and four conservative justices. What this ultimately means for the Clean Power Plan is somewhat uncertain, depending on the timing of the appeal.

Over the past decade, the U.S. Supreme Court – with its conservative faction led by Justice Scalia – increasingly has shaped the contours of complex litigation through its rulings on class actions, employment-related litigation, and governmental enforcement issues. Justice Scalia was at the center of these rulings.

As our nation and especially the legal community mourn the death of one of the most charismatic and influential Supreme Court justices in our history, one question that might be asked is how Justice Scalia’s death might impact pending class action cases.

  • Scott Greenfield on Simple Justice:As much as I may have disagreed with him, I refuse to deny that he was a huge and valuable influence on America law. Justice Scalia was our worst, and sometimes our best, friend on the Supreme Court. People are like that, and Justice Scalia was a real person who will be remembered for his contributions to the law. He deserves to be.
  • David Lat for Above the Law:

Justice Scalia was simultaneously the most God-like and the most human of all the justices. He was the most God-like because of his universalizing, totalizing, all-encompassing vision for the law — the vision that will make him, according to Justice Elena Kagan, a justice who will be remembered a century from now as “one of the most important, most historic figures on the Court.” Many of us will likely not see a greater justice in our lifetimes; I certainly haven’t yet in mine.

We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the ‘applesauce’ and ‘argle bargle’—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh.

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