City Journal by James R. Coplan
A monumental jurist and great American
With the passing of Antonin Scalia, the legal world lost a titan. Justice Scalia was the sixteenth justice in U.S. history to begin his thirtieth year of service, and his impact on the Court was vast. In jurisprudential philosophy (his legal textualism and originalism), in real constitutional impact (his fierce fidelity to the written constitution’s libertarian principles), and in legal craftsmanship (his remarkable writing), Scalia left a singular mark on American constitutional history.
Scalia was a quintessential American—and a quintessential New Yorker. He was the first Italian-American to serve on the Supreme Court: his father was an immigrant from Italy and his mother the child of Italian immigrants. Born in New Jersey, Scalia grew up in Queens; his father taught romance languages at Brooklyn College.
After starring at Xavier, an all-boys Jesuit high school in Manhattan, Scalia enrolled at the nation’s oldest Jesuit university, Georgetown, where he finished as class valedictorian. From there it was off to Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude. While at Harvard, he met Maureen McCarthy, whom he married. The Scalias had nine children, two of whom, Eugene and John, followed their father into the law. (Eugene, an acquaintance, is perhaps the highest-regarded administrative lawyer in the nation’s capital.)