Antonin Scalia is a Supreme Court justice for grown-ups. This irritates the child-like who think the law and the courts are places to take their wish lists, dreams of a summer night and cherished fantasies. Justice Scalia is their Scrooge for all seasons.
Alas, there’s a declining market for grown-ups in modern America, where nearly everyone wants to ride a hobby horse to Mommy, but Mr. Scalia is a bright light on the landscape. Like most of his colleagues he travels frequently to make speeches, often to law schools where auditoriums are always packed, but often to lesser venues. He’s witty, entertaining and blunt in an era when public men retreat to euphemism and hide in flabby language.
He says what he thinks on the high court, too, asking more questions and making more remarks than any of the other eight justices. He provokes more laughter than the other justices, too, all to get to a telling point and to make it memorable. This naturally stokes the ire of the politically correct grunions in places high, low and in-between, but it delights even his critics.
Justice Scalia “doesn’t come in to oral arguments all secretive and Sphinx-like,” writes Dahlia Lithwick of Slate magazine, “feigning indecision on the nuances of the case before him. He comes in like a medieval knight, girded for battle. He knows what the law is. He knows what the opinion should say. And he uses the hour allotted for argument to bludgeon his brethren into agreement.”