Sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Georgetown alumnus Antonin Scalia (CAS ’57) was found dead at a West Texas ranch following a hunting trip Saturday at age 79, according to a statement from Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.
“On behalf of the Court and retired Justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away,” Roberts wrote. “He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”
Scalia, who apparently died from natural causes, served on the Supreme Court for 29 years, the longest-serving justice on the court at the time of his death.
While at Georgetown, Scalia debated as part of the Philodemic Society and performed as a member of the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society. After spending his junior year abroad at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, Scalia graduated in 1957 as the valedictorian of the College of Arts and Sciences, summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in history.
After graduating, Scalia went on to attend Harvard Law School and teach as a law school professor at the University of Virginia, before serving in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Scalia was appointed as associate Supreme Court justice by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
Known as a strong supporter of originalism, the thought that the U.S. Constitution’s meaning was set at the time of its passage and should not be reinterpreted with time, Scalia championed the powers of the executive branch of government and advocated for the strict adherence to the Bill of Rights.
Scalia was lauded as an extremely principled conservative icon by supporters and scorned as an insensitive pundit by critics. Recently in December, Scalia made headlines by opposing affirmative action in the Fisher v. University of Texas case when he asked if black students might be better off going to “slower-track” schools where they may perform better academically.
“I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible,” Scalia said at a conference on affirmative action.
In his commencement address as valedictorian in 1957, as referenced in a June 2014 profile in The Atlantic, Scalia said his classmates should remember to always bridge academic and religious life.
“If we will not be leaders of a real, a true, a Catholic intellectual life, no one will!” Scalia said. “The responsibility rests upon all of us whatever our future professions.”
In a lecture to first-year law students at the Georgetown University Law Center in Nov. 2015, GULC professor Randy Barnett said Scalia was one of the most influential Supreme Court justices.
“Justice Scalia is the most discussed justice on the Supreme Court,” Barnett said. “And that’s true not just in your law class but in law classes across the country, and the reason for that is simple. The opinions he writes are clear, principled and above all, they are interesting.”
A full obituary on Scalia will be published in print and online in a future issue of The Hoya.