Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Jeffrey Toobin issues harsh verdict on Antonin Scalia

Jeffrey Toobin, who writes often about Supreme Court matters for the New Yorker, waited a week after the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia before issuing his final opinion. But when he did, it was harsh. Here are the first two paragraphs:

Antonin Scalia, who died this month, after nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, devoted his professional life to making the United States a less fair, less tolerant, and less admirable democracy. Fortunately, he mostly failed. Belligerent with his colleagues, dismissive of his critics, nostalgic for a world where outsiders knew their place and stayed there, Scalia represents a perfect model for everything that President Obama should avoid in a successor. The great Justices of the Supreme Court have always looked forward; their words both anticipated and helped shape the nation that the United States was becoming. Chief Justice John Marshall read the new Constitution to allow for a vibrant and progressive federal government. Louis Brandeis understood the need for that government to regulate an industrializing economy. Earl Warren saw that segregation was poison in the modern world. Scalia, in contrast, looked backward.

His revulsion toward homosexuality, a touchstone of his world view, appeared straight out of his sheltered, nineteen-forties boyhood. When, in 2003, the Court ruled that gay people could no longer be thrown in prison for having consensual sex, Scalia dissented, and wrote, “Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.” He went on, “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a life style that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

The rest of Toobin’s piece is here.

Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Joe Musich on 02/22/2016 - 06:20 pm.

    Interesting ….

    The bully that Scalia was is now being talked about. Of course one wonders why not when he was doing his damage ?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/22/2016 - 08:21 pm.

      It was

      But nothing short of impeachment could change the fact of his presence on the bench, nor what he said there. Fortunately, he is best known for his minority opinions.

      • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 02/23/2016 - 09:27 pm.

        True that.

        I’m consoled by the fact that he will be forgotten like Justices such as Sutherland, Van de Vanter and Wayne, whose opinions and dissents have been cast into the dustbin of history.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/22/2016 - 06:45 pm.

    From the column…….Not

    From the column…

    ….Not long ago, Scalia told an interviewer that he had cancelled his subscription to the Washington Post and received his news from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times (owned by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church), and conservative talk radio. In this, as in his jurisprudence, he showed that he lived within the sealed bubble of contemporary conservative thought….

    The same descent into the hackery and wackery driven by manufactured illusions and delusions that have led to a world where Trump is the GOP candidate. It’s a self-made calamity for the GOP.

    As long as we are talking Scalia warts, inquiring minds want to know more about the free Cibolo Ranch junket where 30 or 40 of his admirers were gathered….

  3. Submitted by Jim Roth on 02/23/2016 - 11:48 am.

    Well Worth Reading

    The Jeffrey Toobin article is retrained and blunt at the same time. It is well worth reading regarding Scalia and his judicial philosophy and impact.

  4. Submitted by Jim Million on 02/23/2016 - 11:50 am.


    Is any of this week-long post mortem scathing of Scalia some sort of backdoor criticism of his devout Italian Roman Catholic value system?

    I really have begun to wonder.

    In this particular man, faith and judicial philosophy seemed pretty unified.

    • Submitted by Doug Gray on 02/23/2016 - 12:09 pm.

      never knew he was a devout Italian

      So you’re saying he tried to impose Scalia law?

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/23/2016 - 12:32 pm.

      The School Sisters Of Notre Dame

      And Franciscan priests that staffed my grade school were very clear that bullying, name calling and toddler-like temper tantrums were wrong. And I’d also like to ask them what they think of a judge (who is supposed to maintain all possible appearances of impartiality) that accepts speaking fees and free trips from parties who have business before his court.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 02/23/2016 - 01:37 pm.


      I have to wonder whether the motivation for his bad behavior should excuse him of his bad behavior? I’m afraid that I don’t care from whence his views derived, I don’t approve of them any more or less whether he was Italian Roman Catholic or a radical Islamist or a poorly behaved Pastafarian. If you can’t leave your religion at the door in order to fairly and impartially judge, you shouldn’t be a judge, let alone a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/23/2016 - 02:06 pm.

      Week Long Post Mortem

      I would think the death of a long-serving Supreme Court Justice would merit such a post-mortem, especially given his jurisprudential style.

      “In this particular man, faith and judicial philosophy seemed pretty unified.” Arguably. I had come to think that capital punishment was contrary to modern Roman Catholic doctrine, but he seemed to have no problem with not just tinkering with the machinery of death but with making it more expeditious (even if the person executed was innocent). Whatever the resolution of that argument, I would question whether a “unification” of faith and judicial philosophy is a good thing in a constitutional republic that prohibits the establishment of religion.

  5. Submitted by Alan Wilkinson on 02/23/2016 - 12:43 pm.

    antonin scalia

    I wonder if Scalia’s death will change the dynamic of the. It sounds like he may of influenced his fellow conservatives.

  6. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 02/23/2016 - 09:51 pm.

    From back in 2003:

    “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a life style that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

    Many Americans in 2016 might agree.

    Depending on which side of an issue you are on, the late Justice was quite right, or quite wrong. His view of the Constitution differed from many, but who decides just whose view is the correct one?

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/24/2016 - 09:00 am.

      Where did you find Scalia’s constitution ?

      Mine has little or no say on the conduct of one’s personal life.

  7. Submitted by Nathaniel Finch on 02/25/2016 - 08:21 am.

    Speaking ill of the dead

    This isn’t as juicy as Hunter S. Thompson’s obit for Nixon, but at least it speaks ill of the dead – something I’d like to hear more of. And I must say, riffs from The Great Gatsby in reference to Scalia do a disservice to Fitzgerald.

Leave a Reply