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Summary Article: Scalia, Antonin (1936– ) from Dictionary of American Government and Politics

Antonin Scalia is the second most senior associate justice on the Supreme Court. Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1986, he is usually considered to be a key figure of the Court's conservative wing.

From the beginning of his tenure on the Court, Scalia has continued to argue the case for adherence to the text of the Constitution rather than for attempts to interpret it in a modern-day setting. He does not believe that the document is a living document that can be applied to contemporary reality, for this places judges in the position of lawmakers.

Scalia has always been more sympathetic to national power and to a strong Executive than have some other Court conservatives such as Clarence Thomas. In Morrison v. Olson (1988) he wrote a dissenting opinion that challenged the constitutionality of an independent counsel established by the judiciary to investigate senior officials in the Executive. In his dissenting opinion he enquired: 'Once we depart from the text of the Constitution, just where short of that do we stop?' For him, the text and any related provisions of statutes that shed light on the meaning of any disputed text are the only guides necessary in judicial interpretation. He is unwilling to discern any constitutional rights that are not clearly set forth so that, in right-to-life cases, he has rejected any constitutional right to an abortion.

© Duncan Watts, 2010

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