The Tragedy of Justice Scalia

27 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2016 Last revised: 3 May 2017

See all articles by Mitchell N. Berman

Mitchell N. Berman

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Date Written: 2017


Justice Antonin Scalia was, by the time of his death last February, the Supreme Court’s best known and most influential member. He was also its most polarizing, a jurist whom most students of American law either love or hate. This essay, styled as a twenty-year retrospective on A Matter of Interpretation, Scalia’s Tanner lectures on statutory and constitutional interpretation, aims to prod partisans on both sides of our central legal and political divisions to better appreciate at least some of what their opponents see — the other side of Scalia’s legacy. Along the way, it critically assesses Scalia’s particular brand of originalism and sketches a living constitutionalist alternative. It concludes by arguing not only that Scalia was a tragic figure who combined elements of greatness with deep flaws, but also that his life and judicial performance hold lessons of profound importance for all who care about our law and our legal culture.

Keywords: Supreme Court of the United States, SCOTUS, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, jurisprudence, constitutional law, originalism, textualism, living constitutionalism, non-originalism, philosophy, meaning, interpretation, grounds of law

Suggested Citation

Berman, Mitchell N., The Tragedy of Justice Scalia (2017). Michigan Law Review, Vol. 115, P. 783, 2017, U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 16-36, Available at SSRN:

Mitchell N. Berman (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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