Scalia Describes ‘Dangerous’ Trend

Supreme Court justice

Scalia graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1960 and become the first Italian-American Supreme Court justice in 1986.

He said that jurists should be selected for their “lawyerly skills and judicial temperament.” But he said that the Court’s progressive voices had politicized the judicial process in recent years.

Dunster House resident Zachary D. Liscow ’05 rose during the question-and-answer session to suggest that Scalia’s own vote in the controversial 2000 presidential election case could be viewed as an example of the “judicial activism” Scalia deplores.

“I do not mean by [‘judicial activism’] judges actively doing what they’re supposed to do,” Scalia responded. He said the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to order a recount in Miami-Dade County—a decision Scalia and his colleagues overruled—amounted to a “clear violation of the federal constitution.”

And while conservative justices have been criticized for effectively deciding the 2000 election themselves, Scalia quipped: “Would you rather have the president of the United States decided by the Supreme Court of Florida?”


While Scalia’s prepared speech—which lasted less than half an hour—was narrowly focused, his remarks in the 20-minute question-and-answer question spanned a broad range of topics.

In one of the more bizarre moments of the evening, Scalia mentioned—in passing—that he thought the 17th Amendment was “a bad idea.”

The 17th Amendment provides for the direct election of senators.

The students, faculty and community members who held tickets to last night’s event were the winners of an online lottery in which 2,016 entrants competed for 850 spots.

The fortunate few who scored seats walked out of the forum wowed.

“That was quite possibly the most eloquent speech I have ever heard,” said Hurlbut resident Eduardo E. Santacana ’08.

—Staff writer Daniel J. Hemel can be reached at

CORRECTION: The Sept. 29 article "Scalia Describes Dangerous Trend" misquoted Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia said "I even accept for the sake of argument that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged." He did not say "I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged."