This past March would have marked the 83rd birthday of Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Some remember him as a man who fought for the rights and liberties that we all enjoy, while others held a less favorable view of him. Nonetheless, Scalia served as the first Italian-American justice on the US Supreme Court.

Justice Antonin Scalia official painting by Nelson Shanks

Born in Trenton on March 11, 1936 to parents Catherine Panaro and Salvatore Eugene, Scalia was an originalist who interpreted the constitution according to the intentions that were present during its conception. He was strong willed and very much the center of attention in the courtroom; oftentimes saying something that would have people burst into laughter.

He supported state’s rights and was very open about controversial ideas like abortion. Scalia passed away on February 13, 2016, in Cibolo Creek Ranch Marfa, Texas at the age of 79, but his ideology and great accomplishments still live on in our justice system today.

In a comprehensive New York Times commentary on February 13, 2016, Adam Liptak describes Justice Scalia’s opinions as being helpful to criminal defendants charged under vague laws. According to the article, Scalia objected in 2009 to the court’s decision not to hear an appeal concerning a federal law that made it a crime “to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.” The law was so vague, he wrote, that “it would seemingly cover a salaried employee’s phoning in sick to go to a ballgame.” The Supreme Court soon agreed to hear three separate cases on the law and substantially cut back its scope.

Known for never being at a loss for words on the bench, Scalia was always inquisitive and at times and “brutally forceful in persuading both petitioner and respondent attorneys to fall in line with his legal conclusions.” (https://www.oyez.org/justices/antonin_scalia)