News & Events
Posted Feb. 13, 2016

Remembering Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia


Justice Antonin Scalia

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a UVA Law faculty member from 1967 to 1974, and later helped found the Journal of Law & Politics as an adjunct professor. (Hi-res photo; photos courtesy Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections)

Members of the University of Virginia School of Law community are mourning the loss of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose death was announced by the court Saturday. Scalia served as a faculty member at the school from 1967 to 1974.

Contact: Mary Wood

"I am profoundly saddened by Justice Scalia's death," said Dean Paul G. Mahoney. "He was a deeply principled and original constitutional thinker and an admirable person. Our entire community mourns the loss of a former member of our faculty. Our thoughts are with Justice Scalia's family."

Feb. 16 Update: A Former Clerk Remembers Justice Scalia

Scalia, known for being a leader of the conservative originalist movement, had been scheduled to speak in Charlottesville later this month as part of the Federalist Society's national student symposium, which was being hosted by UVA Law's student chapter. He spoke at the Virginia Law Review's centennial celebration in 2014 and at many occasions hosted by the Law School over the years. Six UVA Law graduates have clerked for Scalia in the past 10 years alone. (More)

A graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Law School, Scalia joined the UVA Law faculty after working at the Cleveland firm Jones, Day, Cockley, and Revis. At Virginia he taught Comparative Law, Commercial Transactions, Conflict of Law, Problems in U.S. Communication Policy and Contracts, among other courses.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon appointed Scalia general counsel for the Office of Telecommunications Policy. Scalia later served as assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department. (Scalia was on leave from the University from 1971 until 1974, his official departure date.) He was a member of the University of Chicago faculty from 1977 to 1982, and also taught at Stanford Law School during that time. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where he served until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1986. Scalia, who was 79 when he died, was the longest-serving member of the current Supreme Court bench.

Justice Scalia

Scalia spoke at the Virginia Law Review's centennial dinner in
February 2014. More

Scalia kept ties to UVA Law over the years, including by serving as an adjunct professor. In 1983, he helped found the Journal of Law & Politics, one of 10 student-run journals at the school.

Professor Richard Bonnie '69 attended UVA Law while Scalia was a professor and served on the faculty alongside him.

"Although I did not have the pleasure of being Nino’s student, I did interact frequently with him as a colleague during the years we both served on the faculty and when we overlapped in Washington in the early ‘70s," Bonnie said. "Every interaction was at once serious and fun — I was ever on guard for the unexpected insight and the acerbic aside. ... Nino was larger than life even then. I am greatly saddened by his sudden death."  

Professor John Duffy, who clerked for Scalia, recounted to NBC29 that when he told his boss he wanted to teach law, the justice had wise words to offer.

“His advice was, everything else he'd do for free, because he loved to teach, because he loved to impart knowledge to the next generation of lawyers, but they had to pay him to grade, and every time I grade at the end of the semester, I think how true those words are,” Duffy said.

During alumnus Todd Sloan's first year at UVA Law, Scalia taught his small-section Contracts class. Scalia "was respected by all," said Sloan, who graduated in 1972 and has also taught at the Law School. 

"There was a bit of a raconteur about him. We spoke tenderly about Rose of Aberlone and discussed char-a-bancs," Sloan said, referring to cases often taught in contracts courses, "So the class had a bit of a trivia game about it. He was an amazing instructor; I learned much about contracts and life from this good man."

During a talk at the Law School in 2010, Scalia explained why he championed originalism as a judicial philosophy.

"My burden is not to show that originalism is perfect, but that it beats the other alternatives — and that, believe me, is not difficult," Scalia said. Originalism "does not invite [the judge] to make the law what he thinks it should be, nor does it permit him to distort history with impunity. ... If ideological judging is the malady, the avowed application of such personal preferences will surely hasten the patient's demise, and the use of history is far closer to being the cure than being the disease."

In 2008, Scalia received the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law, the highest external honor (also given in architecture, citizen leadership and global innovation) bestowed by the University of Virginia, which grants no honorary degrees. During that visit to the school, Scalia lectured to the entire first-year class on constitutional law, at an event hosted by Professor Micah Schwartzman.

"He was a friend to UVA," Schwartzman said of Scalia, who once famously wrote about the school's unique qualities in a dissent:

"The Court ... must be forgiven by Virginians for quoting a reference to ‘the Charlottesville campus’ of the University of Virginia. The University of Virginia ... occupies the portion of Charlottesville known, not as the "campus," but as "the grounds." More importantly, even if it were a "campus," there would be no need to specify "the Charlottesville campus," as one might refer to the Bloomington or Indianapolis campus of Indiana University. Unlike university systems with which the Court is perhaps more familiar, such as those in New York ... Illinois ... and California ... there is only one University of Virginia."

Justice Scalia at Mad Bowl

Professor Antonin Scalia officiates the annual Virginia Law Weekly-Virginia Law Review football game at Mad Bowl. (Hi-res photo)

Feb. 18 Update: Former UVA Law Professor Scalia Administered Justice on the Football Field Too (Law Library Blog)


A 1968 photo of the UVA Law faculty; Scalia is second from right in the second row. (Hi-res photo)

Scalia judging Moot Court

Scalia, right, moderates a Federalist Society panel session at UVA Law in March 1988, with Michael Moore of the University of Southern California, left, and Paul Bator, since deceased, of the University of Chicago.(Hi-res photo)

Scalia receives the TJ Medal

Scalia receives the 2008 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law (with UVA President John Casteen, left). (More) Photo by Dan Addison/UVA Public Affairs


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