Justice Scalia with President Ronald Reagan

Antonin Scalia, the first Italian American to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

Antonin Scalia (1936- ), born in Trenton, New Jersey, to parents of Italian descent --his father having emigrated from Sicily --was raised in Queens, New York. Both his mother and father were educators, his mother an elementary school teacher and his father a professor of Romance languages at Brooklyn College. That Antonin was himself a very intelligent young man was evidenced by the fact that he graduated first in his class both at New York City's Xavier High School and Georgetown University. Strong in the study of the classics, he graduated Harvard Law School where he also served as editor of the Law Review. He met and married a Maureen McCarthy and together became parents of nine children. In 1967 Scalia became law professor a the University of Virginia Law School until 1971when he began to work for the federal government eventually becoming assistant attorney in charge of the Justice's Department's Office of Legal Counsel. He returned to academia from 1977 to 1982 as law professor at the University of Chicago Law School and, as visiting professor at Stanford University Law School and Georgetown University Law School. In 1982 President Reagan appointed Scalia first to the Federal Appeals Court in Washington, D.C., and then in 1986 to be an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. The Senate approved his appointment without dissent.

From the outset of his tenure on the nation's highest court Scalia has carved out for himself a reputation as a conspicuous authority on constitutional law whose interrogations reveal an intellectually conservative orientation that consistently inveighs against enlargement of the authority of the judiciary branch into the legislative domain. Such a perspective exposes him to praise from conservatives and criticism from liberals. He is known as a fiery and articulate personality who makes waves as he virtually oversees a basic shift in the court's underlying approach to law and the Constitution. He emphasizes "originalism" and "textualism" regarding how justices interpret the law rather than following judicial interpretations of the law. This necessitates going to the directly to the source of the law -the Constitution or the Amendments to it. Scalia's style, described as combative and hard-edged, is balanced by other images including that of one who loves opera, pizza with anchovies and likes to play piano at parties. As one of the most colorful members of the highest court he has a host of admirers that have established two web sites devoted to him and his views. By 2003, there was speculation that he might be considered for the next Chief Justice position.

In 2006 Samuel Alito of New Jersey joined Scalia on the Supreme Court - only the second Italian American ever appointed to the nationís highest tribunal. Alito attributed much of his approach to law to what he learned from his father a first-generation Italian American who experienced discrimination for both his nationality and his Catholic religion.

Justice Scalia swears in Congressman Rick Lazio of New York into the 106th Congress

View Previous Entry     View Next Entry       Back to Timeline