Antonin Scalia, Living Constitutionalist

8 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2016 Last revised: 22 Apr 2016

See all articles by Cass R. Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: April 6, 2016


Justice Antonin Scalia was a vigorous defender of originalism, but in some of his most important opinions, he was a superb practitioner of living constitutionalism. Two of the best examples are his majority opinions in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife (involving standing) and Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council (involving “takings”). His affirmative action opinions fall in the same category, and District of Columbia v. Heller, though written in originalist terms, can easily be seen as a moral reading of the Second Amendment. One lesson involves the gravitational pull of precedents, which can draw judges away from their preferred methodologies. The larger lesson is that moral readings of the Constitution are exceptionally difficult to avoid in specific cases, even for judges who abhor them in general.

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., Antonin Scalia, Living Constitutionalist (April 6, 2016). Harvard Law Review, Forthcoming; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 16-15. Available at SSRN: or

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts Ave
Areeda Hall 225
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2291 (Phone)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics