Childhood & Early Life
Antonin Scalia was born to Salvatore Eugene Scalia and Catherine Scalia. While his mother was an elementary school teacher, his father was a clerk who went on to become a professor of Romance language at the Brooklyn College.
At the age of six, his family relocated to Elmhurst, Queens in New York City. Since he was the only child of the family, he received all the attention and attraction. However, expectations from him were extremely high.
In 1953, he enrolled at Georgetown University from where he graduated valedictorian and summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history four years later.
He then went on to study law at the Harvard Law School. It was while at the law school that he served as a Notes Editor for Harvard Law Review. In 1960, he graduated with a magna cum laude.
He became a Sheldon Fellow of Harvard University, a fellowship that granted him to travel throughout Europe for a year from 1960 until 1961.
Continue Reading Below
His legal career kick-started at the law office of Jones, Day, Cockley and Reavis in Cleveland in 1961. Though he was highly regarded and showed the promise to rise up to the rank of becoming a partner at the organization, he realized that this wasn’t his true calling.
Walking on the footsteps of his father, he took up the position of Professor of Law at the University of Virginia in 1967, thus realizing his long-cherished dream. He moved along with his family to Charlottesville, Virginia
His service at the university ended in 1971, when he entered public service. He was offered the post of General Counsel for the Office of Telecommunications Policy by President Richard Nixon. His duty involved preparing public policy for the growth of cable television.
For two years, from 1972 until 1974, he held the post of the Chairman of the Administrative Conference of United States. A small agency, it aimed to augment the working of the federal bureaucracy.
During Nixon’s regime, he was nominated as one of the ideal candidates for the seat of the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel. Despite Gerald Ford taking over the office of the President, his nomination continued and was later confirmed by the Senate on August 22, 1974.
Post the Watergate scandal, he regularly defended the Ford administration which went into a number of conflicts with the Congress. He backed the assertions of executive privilege against turning over of documents.
In 1976, he fought his only case before the Supreme Court, Alfred Dunhill of London, Inc. v. Republic of Cuba, arguing for Dunhill on behalf of the U.S. government. The result of the case went in favour of Dunhill, which eventually resulted in his victory.
When Ford lost the presidential elections to newly elected President Jimmy Carter, Scalia took up a post at the American Enterprise Institute for a couple of months. However, it wasn’t long before he returned to academic life, taking up residence at University of Chicago Law School from 1977 to 1982.
It was during his time at the University of Chicago that he spent one year as a visiting professor at Stanford Law School. In 1981, he was appointed as the first faculty adviser for the University of Chicago's newly founded Federalist Society
Continue Reading Below
Ronald Reagan’s appointment as the President in 1980 brought good news for Scalia as he desired for a major position in the new administration. After losing the seat of Solicitor General of the United States, he was offered a position at the Chicago-based United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which he rejected.
Eventually, he was appointed to the highly influential United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The confirmation by the United States Senate was received on August 5 and later on August 17, 1982 he was sworn in for the position.
During his tenure at the DC Circuit, he built on a conservative image of himself, winning applause and accolade for his powerful yet witty legal writing. His write-up often sounded critical of the US Supreme Court, whom he was bound to follow as a lower court judge. This brought him to the limelight of the Reagan, who shortlisted his name for a Supreme Court nomination, lest a seat became vacant in future.
When Chief Justice Warren Burger retired in 1986, Associate Justice William Rehnquist was appointed to fill up the former’s shoes, which meant a vacancy to fill up for Rehnquist's seat as associate justice. Scalia was chosen as the ideal candidate.
He was confirmed for the sea of the Associate Justice of Supreme Court on September 17, 1986, thus becoming the first Italian-American justice. He assumed his new role on September 26, 1986.
In the new capacity, he tagged himself as an originalist, interpreting the Constitution of United States as it would have been understood when it was first adopted. This is in stark contrast with the present view according to which the constitution is conceptualized as a living document taking into account the views of the modern-day society.
Over the years, he categorically argued about no constitutional right for abortion. However, given the demand of the hour, he stressed that if the people of the country, by and large, desire legalized abortion, the issue should be decided in the legislature and a law should be passed to realize the same.
He voted to strike out the laws that implicate distinctions on basis of race, gender and sexual orientation. Furthermore, he argued that laws that make distinctions between genders should be subjected to intermediate scrutiny
Under the criminal law, he stated his belief of death penalty being constitutional. Even in cases in which the criminal is under the age of 18, he clearly expressed his opposition against death penalty being unconstitutional.