Scalia’s rhetorical skills remembered

Mona Charen devotes a National Review Online column to a new collection of speeches from the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Antonin Scalia was not just a great stylist for a jurist, he was a great writer for a writer. Most of his work though, obviously, was in the form of opinions and dissents, and even the best Supreme Court opinions are required to include copious citations in the text, which, for the general reader, can be distracting speed bumps. That’s one of the many reasons to rejoice at a new collection of Scalia’s speeches.

Scalia Speaks is a joint effort by Ethics and Public Policy Center president Ed Whelan (a former Scalia law clerk) and Christopher Scalia, one of the justice’s nine children and a former English professor. It offers even the non-specialist an almost intimate picture of one of the giants of our age. Here, in vivid prose, without textual clutter, is his case for originalism, against the “living constitution,” and for judicial modesty. …

… There is much to learn in these speeches about the Constitution, Western civilization, the intersection of faith and public policy, American history, and, of course, the law. But the thread that connects all is Scalia’s bone-deep appreciation for the primacy of character. Again and again he stressed that a decent society ultimately rests not on laws or customs or even history but on the character of the people. He gave many speeches at universities, law schools, and (if one of his nine children or numerous grandchildren was in the graduating class) at high schools.

Speaking of Scalia’s oratory, here’s a link to a Carolina Journal Online report on the justice’s 2007 speech in Cary defending orginalism.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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