A Judge Should Be Judged By His Prisoners

08-38191+20scalia021416Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Saturday, was a fierce and traditional Catholic. He and his wife Maureen attended St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Great Falls, Va. Scalia was said to favor it because it was one of the few Catholic parishes in the Washington, D.C., area that still offered a Latin Mass.

His brilliance on the Court and throughout his career due no doubt in part to the rigorous Jesuit education he received prior to Harvard Law school. On Sunday in Mass, we prayed for the repose of his soul. And I was glad for that.

His most noted opponent and “BFF” on the Court was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The two were famous as judicial fencing partners. According to NPR’s Nina Totenberg, “The Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., is about to open a new play about Scalia called The Originalist. There’s a best-selling line of T-shirts featuring a robed Ginsburg over the jibe, “Notorious R.B.G.” And both are the subjects of a new comic opera called Scalia/Ginsburg, based on their famous legal feud.”

But in remembering Judge Antonin Scalia I turned to Mumia Abu-Jamal, perhaps America’s most insightful political prisoner sentenced to life without parole, to provide Scalia’s memorial. A judge of the highest court in the most powerful land should, in the end, be judged by his prisoners.–Rose Marie Berger

From In Prison Nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal:

Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court, famous for his quips and his judicial opinions is no more. The Associate Justice, appointed to the courts by President Reagan in 1986, was coming up on his 30th year this September on the bench. He was a controversial figure, and arguably the most intellectually gifted of his colleagues. But it must be said that his brilliance was not at the service of the many but the few.

Law professor Cass Sunstein, in his 2005 book Radicals in Robes, criticized both Scalia and perhaps his closest colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas, for their ‘original intent’ theories. Generally the theory holds anything not explicitly originally written into the constitution was not legitimate law. Such they call both jurists ‘false fundamentalists’ especially for their opposition to affirmative action, on the theory that government could never take race into account. Sunstein argued wasn’t the 13th amendment specifically about race? Wasn’t the Civil War? And didn’t the Reconstruction Congress create institutions specifically for black ex-slaves, like the Freedmen’s Bureau, a financial institution? “To ignore such history” he said, “was disingenuous.”

Writer and scholar Chris Hedges, in his 2006 book American Fascist, identified Scalia as a “dominionist jurist,” or one who used his religious views, not his legal ones to decided cases. Scalia may have lost his greatest ally in the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision when he critiqued O’Connor decision to uphold the abortions. O’Connor, a stickler for decorum, didn’t take kindly to his attack and thereafter moved perceptibly to the left, often becoming the fifth vote for a liberal majority, especially on criminal justice and women’s issues. Scalia, brilliant, opinionated, outspoken and in-your-face was never boring. He knew where he stood and planted his flag there for arch-conservatives. Antonin ‘Nino’ Scalia was in his 79th year of life.–Mumia Abu-Jamal

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