Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

My Contribution to NR Scalia Symposium

The new issue of National Review, which is now at the presses, will feature Justice Scalia on the cover and will include a symposium of very brief (200-word) personal reflections on aspects of the fuller Scalia (not just Scalia the outstanding jurist). Contributors to the symposium include Justices Thomas, Ginsburg, and Breyer, lots of other friends and eminences, and a number of his former law clerks. I’m very much looking forward to reading it. So look for the new issue in the mail or online (or subscribe now to the paper or digital version).

Much as I tried to come up with an amusing anecdote, I ended up with something more sober. Here’s my contribution to the symposium:

Yes, Justice Scalia loved hunting and flyfishing, opera and Shakespeare, anchovy pizza and red wine. But while those all brought him real pleasure, the two deep loves that sustained him, in good times and in bad, were his wonderful wife Maureen and the Catholic faith they shared.

During one very low point of the dismal term I clerked for him, when some of his colleagues were engaging in rampant lawlessness, I asked him, somewhat rhetorically, how he could possibly put up with it all, year after year. Instead of telling me to stop griping, he answered: “Maureen.” Similarly, while he was rightly proud of his nine children, whenever anyone would compliment him for their achievements and virtues, he would say, “Maureen deserves all the credit.”

The boss was quiet about his faith in chambers. But on one Holy Day of Obligation on which he detected that I was buried in work and hadn’t yet gone to Mass, he gave a gentle nudge by quoting the gospel passage, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?”

From Justice Scalia’s two loves, I was inspired to deepen my embrace of the faith and to find my own Maureen. 

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