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Final Thoughts: Justice Kagan Remembers Justice Scalia

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 29, 2024 3:02 am

Final Thoughts: Justice Kagan Remembers Justice Scalia

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 29, 2024 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, honoring her colleague's legal integrity and effectiveness as well as his personal kindness and dynamism, Justice Elena Kagan speaks about her friend, Justice Antonin "Nino" Scalia.

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18 plus. Turns and conditions apply. Music This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. And today we have a final thoughts for you. And this can be a eulogy, a remembrance of someone important in your lives or an American life who died. This week's final thoughts feature comes from Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. Honoring someone you might not expect. Someone completely unlike her, at least as it relates to the law. But completely like her in this sense.

Well, they're human beings. Who loved other human beings and being with them, that person she honored is the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Someone that she hunted with.

In fact, he taught her how to hunt. And the occasion of Justice Kagan speaking about Justice Scalia was the dedication of George Mason University's law school in his name. Let's drop in and take a listen. I'm deeply honored to participate in this dedication of the Antonin Scalia Law School. Although I have to admit, the name strikes me as a little bit formal.

I'm wondering if I can substitute the word nino. It's so fitting, it's so right, that a fine law school like this one should bear Justice Scalia's name. One reason that's true, the obvious reason I suppose, has to do with what Justice Scalia accomplished during his time on the bench.

He'll go down in history as one of the most important Supreme Court Justices ever and also one of the greatest. His articulation of textualist and originalist principles communicated in that distinctive extraordinary prose did nothing less than transform our legal culture. It changed the way almost all judges and so almost all lawyers think and talk about the law, even if they part ways at one or another point from his interpretive theories. In reading the statute, does anyone now decline to focus first on its text in context? Addressing constitutional meaning, does anyone now ignore the founder's commitments? And in defending an interpretive stance, even if not Justice Scalia's own, does anyone dispute the need to constrain judges from acting on their personal policy preferences?

If the answer is no, and the answer is no, or mostly no, Justice Scalia deserves much of the credit, and that is a legacy worthy of a law school dedication. But there's another reason George Mason couldn't have selected a better name for its law school, and that's because no one was more enthusiastic, more passionate about connecting with law students than Justice Scalia. He visited and revisited law schools across the country to talk about ideas. As the Dean said, I once served as Dean of the law school he graduated from, so I had the good fortune to host the Justice several times.

Those days were among the most fun I ever had as Dean. Justice Scalia turned it all on, his brilliance, his wit, his good cheer, and his, well let's say his confidence in the manifest rightness of all his opinions. Now here's the way Justice Scalia described what he did on those trips. He said this a few years back, he said, I go to law schools just to make trouble. I give lectures and stir up the students. It takes several weeks for their professors to put them back on track.

Actually, several weeks were rarely enough. Justice Scalia would go from event to event to event, from group to group to group, exciting students, challenging students, provoking students, charming students, and making them think harder than they had ever thought before about how to do law. But really, Justice Scalia didn't need to show up in person to have that effect. He could grab hold of students, shake them and turn them upside down solely by means of his written opinions. He used to say that when he wrote, law students were one of his target audiences, maybe his principal one. And if my many hours teaching law were in any way typical, he had an almost unerring instinct for what would persuade them, or at least what would force them to question some of their most settled thinking. Justice Scalia's opinions mesmerize law students.

Why shouldn't they? Their captivating style, full of wit, dash, and verve, the analytic rigor and precision, the insistence upon logic and discipline in legal reasoning, the ability to convey ideas in the way that will make them most stick with the reader, the very presence of ideas, deep, thought-provoking understandings of the way law should work. If I heard it once from a student, I heard it a thousand times. Professor Kagan, a student, would say, I didn't think I would ever agree with Justice Scalia, but he just has to be right about this.

And so he was, not always, but often. And so law students in generations to come will tell their professors. And now some of those students will look up and see Justice Scalia's name on their law school's building.

What a great, great thing. Congratulations to George Mason University, and congratulations to the Nino Scalia Law School for memorializing, for celebrating this most remarkable judge and teacher. This is Our American Stories.

Final thoughts, Justice Kagan paying tribute to Justice Scalia. This is Lee Habib, host of Our American Stories, the show where America is the star in the American people, and we do it all from the heart of the South, Oxford, Mississippi. But we truly can't do this show without you.

Our shows will always be free to listen to, but they're not free to make. So if you love what you hear, consider making a tax-deductible donation to Our American Stories. Go to

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