De mortius nilhi nisi bonum— Speak no ill of the dead.
Despite the Latin injunction not to bad mouth the dead, it is impossible to say much good about Justice Antonin Scalia.
Yet Adam Liptak, New York Times Supreme Court reporter, stretched the truth to say much good in his story of Scalia’s recent death at 79.
Liptak cited Scalia’s “transformative legal theory.” Nonsense. Scalia transformed nothing. Liptak said Scalia led the “conservative intellectual renaissance.” Hardly a renaissance. Scalia was an arch-reactionary.
Scalia was a champion of originalism, constitutional interpretation applying the Founders’ words to the legal issues of today. This is absurd. The Founders never thought of abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage and so many other issues they did not imagine.
Chief Justice Roberts called Scalia’s “passing a great loss to the court and the country.” Not so. His death could make the court far better.
Appeals court Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit in Chicago called Scalia “the most influential justice in the past quarter century.” Balderdash. The Latin expression brings out gross exaggeration in otherwise intelligent people.
Nevertheless, some writers tell the horrible truth. Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker: “Scalia devoted his life on the Supreme Court to making the United States less fair, less tolerant and a less admirable democracy.” William Rivers Pitt in a Truthout op-edit: “Scalia was to the nation a wrecking ball.”
President Obama will soon choose a successor. Whether the Republican-controlled Senate will confirm that selection is problematical. The GOP is determined to leave the appointment to the new president elected in November. It does not want the court to change from reactionary to progressive.
For now the story is Scalia. He often dissented and often acerbically. Perhaps he was just showing off. Whatever, he was an unbelievably retrograde right-wing ideologue incredibly out of touch with ordinary people.
He could not understand why innocent young black people might run whenever they see a cop. Instead, he would loftily quote a line from the Bible: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” (Proverbs 28:1).
GAY RIGHTS DISSENTS
He constantly dissented in gay rights cases. In Lawrence v. Texas (2003) the Supreme Court invalidated a Texas statute banning homosexual relations.
“Today’s opinion is the product of a court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has signed on to the homosexual agenda,” Scalia wrote. “It eliminates the moral opprobrium traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.
“Many Americans do not want homosexuals in their businesses, as scoutmasters and as teachers. The court is oblivious to the fact that homosexuals are not in the mainstream.”
When the Supreme Court ruled in the disastrous Citizens United case (2010) that money is free speech, Scalia naturally joined the 5-4 majority to approve legalized bribery for millionaires supporting politicians.
Scalia cast hundreds of votes as a Supreme Court justice but his absolute worst was his vote in Bush v. Gore in December 2000. The court stopped the vote recount in Florida and thereby criminally gave the presidency to Republican G.W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore.
Just five people out of 300 million Americans declared Bush president. Nationally, Gore won 540,000 more votes than Bush.
Scalia’s death should means a better Supreme Court and one that redounds more to the benefit of America.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)