This credo, says US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, guides his originalist view of the US Constitution: A judge’s role is to uphold the law, not to create or change it. As he spoke to the UT community April 15 during the annual Rose lecture, Scalia shared a prime example of his role as an originalist: his vote in 1989’s Texas v. Johnson upholding the constitutionality of flag burning. Regardless of his personal opinions, Scalia said he voted according to his judicial interpretation of the First Amendment as it was originally written.
“The Constitution is not a living organism,” he said. “It’s law.”
During his visit to UT, Scalia also met with students and faculty of the College of Law, signed copies of his books, and talked to students in Associate Professor David Wolitz’s Constitutional Law class. And before heading home, he had a chance to taste some local Knoxville flavor at Sweet P’s BBQ.
President Ronald Reagan appointed Scalia to the US Supreme Court in 1986. As the longest-serving justice currently on the court, he is the senior associate justice.
Scalia visited UT in 1990, making this his second visit to the university. He is the third sitting Supreme Court justice to visit UT in four years. The College of Law hosted Associate Justice Elena Kagan in 2012 and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas in 2010. In addition, retired Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor visited UT in 2008 to help open the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Scalia received his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, in 1957, and his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1960.
He was a Sheldon Fellow of Harvard University from 1960 to 1961 and practiced law in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1961 to 1967. He was a professor of law at the University of Virginia from 1967 to 1971 and at the University of Chicago from 1977 to 1982. Scalia was a visiting professor of law at Georgetown University and Stanford University.
He served the federal government as general counsel of the Office of Telecommunications Policy from 1971 to 1972, chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States from 1972 to 1974 and assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel from 1974 to 1977.
Scalia was appointed judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1982. In 1986, President Regan nominated him as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, and he took his seat on September 17, 1986.
The Rose Lecture is made possible through the generosity of Richard Rose (’74) of Coats, Rose, Yale, Ryman & Lee in Houston, Texas.