, ’76 Blog contributor]
“We are a nation of laws, not men.”
– John Adams, 1770
Antonin Scalia has died, and with him, a major rampart of constitutional jurisprudence has been lost. The longest serving and arguably most conservative and bold member of the Supreme Court, he has authored opinions upholding the principles of Federalism, the essential separation of powers, the death penalty, the Second Amendment, school prayer, and that there is no Constitutional right to abortion. A strict constructionist, he always bristled at the progressive assertion that the Constitution is a “living, breathing document,” subject to the ever-changing and unmoored whims of culture.
“Nino,” as he was known to his friends and closest associates, was renowned for his fiery and passionate approach to the law and its arguments. He would send “Ninograms,” short memos pleading for others to understand and agree with his legal opinion. Whereas other justices would typically feign indifference and sit as idle Sphinxes during Supreme Court arguments, “Nino,” was vivd, animated, and made no pretense about what he thought and how he felt. He was, to many, an authentic breath of fresh air.
But Scalia was more than just a brilliant, bold, and courageously conservative jurist. He was active and engaged in a way rarely found by members of the Bench. He was involved in The Federalist Society, helping it to gain esteem and rise to important influence. He is the justice most commonly addressed in articles of law review, and was an immensely popular and engaging speaker, usually finding packed houses of law or political science students wherever he went.
Of all his contributions to the American legal system, perhaps none were greater and more impactful than his doggedly determined defense of the proper role of the court, and the need for separation of powers. He once said, “”Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society,” encouraging what others would call “incubators of democracy.” He therefore never snobbishly saw himself as the supreme law of the land, merely its most entrusted defender. He left the law writing in its rightful place: We, The People.
While it’s garish to discuss the political ramifications of his passing this soon, considering their import, we must.
This highlights just how important it is that the next President is a conservative constitutionalist who we can trust to appoint conservative constitutional jurists. President Obama will now get to flip one of the most conservative voices in the Court’s history into possibly one of its most liberal, and the Second Amendment, free speech and association, religious liberty, and millions of lives of unborn children hang in the balance. How the Court decides these essential issues in the coming years will determine the fate of our republic, and the future state of liberty. If we do not choose wisely this Fall, we could very well be headed down a road from which the republic may not return.
So thanks for everything, Justice Scalia. You ran your race and fought your fight well. May we all follow your great example and summon the courage and wisdom to choose wisely to ensure that we remain a “nation of laws, and not men.”
“Publius” is a contributor to the ’76 Blog, and the pseudonym of a concerned patriot who previously taught American history, worked at the Reagan Ranch Center, served in Afghanistan, and currently works in law enforcement in the Denver area. All of his thoughts and opinions are his own, and do not represent the position of the Centennial Institute, Colorado Christian University, or anyone else for that matter. You can follow Publius on Twitter, on Facebook at, or reach him at email@example.com. You can find all of Publius’ latest commentary at publiussays.wordpress.com.