The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived

Book Reviews

Edited by Christopher J. Scalia and Edward Whelan

Photo cover of Scalia SpeaksWhen we remember Justice Antonin Scalia — or most any Supreme Court justice, living or dead — what we recall usually revolves around what the justice wrote in an important majority opinion or memorable dissent. Christopher J. Scalia, Scalia’s eighth of nine children, and Edward Whelan, attorney and former Scalia law clerk, expand our understanding of Justice Scalia beyond the law reports by giving us Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived. The work, a collection of the late justice’s memorable speeches, provides a thoughtful glimpse into what Scalia believed made a life well-lived.

The editors organize the speeches into six sections: the American people and ethnicity; living and learning; faith; law; virtue and the public good; and heroes and friends. Too many themes run through the speeches to list them all here, but his belief that friendship should cross party lines comes up again and again. To make that point, Scalia shares an anecdote about President William Howard Taft, who also served as chief justice of the Supreme Court. Taft, who Scalia held in high regard, always greeted his opponents, like labor leader Samuel Gompers, with a broad smile and warm handshake. Scalia notes “[h]ow much better that is than calling [one’s political opponent]…a reptilian bastard.” Scalia’s close relationship with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who graciously penned the foreword for this work) demonstrates that Scalia did not just pay lip service to this idea. As he put it: “I attack ideas. I don’t attack people.”

In his introduction to the collection, Christopher shares one of his father’s favorite ways of describing the “living Constitution” approach to judging. Justice Scalia, of course, rejected that interpretive method in favor of “originalism” or “textualism.” Scalia would recall an old commercial for Prego sauce and analogize it to the constitutional interpretation method he found abhorrent. It went like this:

The husband in this ad asks his wife, “Are you gonna use this store-bought sauce? Aren’t you gonna make it yourself? Does it have oregano in it?”

“It’s in there!”

“Yeah, but does it have pepper?”

“It’s in there!”

“Does it have olive oil?”

“It’s in there!”

“What about basil?”

“It’s in there!”

We got that kind of a Constitution now. You want a right to an abortion? It’s in there! You want a right to die? It’s in there. Whatever is good and true and beautiful, it’s in there! Never mind the text, it’s irrelevant.

That Prego commercial applies well to this collection. Are you a lawyer or judge hoping for insight into Scalia’s approach to interpretation of the law? It’s in there! Are you a public figure called upon to give speeches and wanting to see how it’s done right? It’s in there! Or are you a reader looking for the reflections of a fellow American on character, integrity, and what it means to be alive, all told with wit and an uncommon understanding of the human condition?

It’s in there.

Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived is published by Crown Forum and is available at Amazon and wherever books are sold.

Mark Miller, a board-certified appellate specialist, is a senior attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation and manages PLF’s office in Palm Beach Gardens.