Antonin Scalia — A Justice in Full

By: John P. Schmitz, Managing Director

“Justice Antonin Scalia was a great friend of Europe and an expert on European legal traditions. After Harvard Law School, he traveled to Switzerland and Germany, studying European constitutions including the German Basic Law.

Beginning in 1992, Justice Scalia met regularly with European legal experts in the Mentor Group’s Forum for EU–U.S. Legal-Economic Affairs, founded by Thomas Kosmo. At the 2003 Rome Forum, Italian senator Giuliano Amato, vice president of the Convention on the Future of Europe, asked Justice Scalia to share his observations on the new EU constitution.

The draft EU constitution lay before Justice Scalia in three volumes, totaling over a thousand pages. Senator Amato admitted that very few Europeans had actually read the entire draft.

Justice Scalia pulled out his pocket U.S. Constitution. “We prefer a shorter Constitution.”

The 50 new European fundamental rights included some familiar to Americans, such as freedom of speech and religious liberty, as well as rights to collective bargaining, maternity leave, and even “good administration” of the EU, provoking some laughs.

Scalia explained that there is a tradeoff between the number of fundamental rights protected by an unelected judiciary and the ability of that judiciary to protect those rights over time, using its limited “capital” to stand up to elected branches and public opinion. The small number of “truly” important rights was key to the Court’s success in the American experience.

The Europeans loved it.”

National Review asked colleagues, friends, and family members of the late Justice Antonin Scalia to say some words about his mind and character. The editors thank Edward Whelan for assistance in planning and organizing this symposium, a version of which appeared in the March 14, 2016, issue. 

The body of Justice Antonin Scalia arrives at the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. Thousands of mourners will pay their respects Friday for Justice Antonin Scalia as his casket rests in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court, where he spent nearly three decades as one of its most influential members. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The body of Justice Antonin Scalia arrives at the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. Thousands of mourners will pay their respects Friday for Justice Antonin Scalia as his casket rests in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court, where he spent nearly three decades as one of its most influential members. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Max Schmitz