Antonin Scalia has died. For the most part, I wasn’t a fan of his. I’ve never particularly liked his contributions to the Supreme Court but, as you might guess, with someone as forceful as Scalia frequently was, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg having fun on an elephant. From the archive of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg having fun on an elephant. From the archive of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Here’s the bad. He was strongly against the ruling in Miranda and voted to overrule it in Dickerson v US. He was strongly in favour of the death penalty, including for 15 year olds (Thompson v Oklahoma). For thirty years he led the charge to overturn Roe v Wade. His dissent in Morrison v Olson is a painful read, accurately described by his fellow Justice Harry Blackburn as “screaming”. He should have recused himself from Hamdan v Rumsfeld. He acted like a dick in Romer v Evans and followed it by acting like a bigger dick in Lawrence v Texas, so much so that Chief Justice Rehnquist basically asked him to zip it during oral presentations. I could go on, but that’ll do as a quick demonstration of my dislike for his votes.

On the other hand, his written opinions (whether or not you agree with them) are generally very much worth reading. I have some sympathy for his views that constitutional cases do not hinge on subsequent legislation, though I found his insistence on constitutional originalism to be rather severe and, alas, inconsistent depending on cases he heard. But his opinions were typically punchy, confident and often quite funny. I have a lot of sympathy for anyone who uses analogies as much as Scalia did. That I think he was a conservative millstone around the neck of the court for much of his thirty years on the SCOTUS bench doesn’t negate that his opinions usually tend to be worth the time to read.

And he got on with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, even though they often clashed when making rulings.His apparent ability to put work aside and get on with someone with whom he disagreed so much but personally liked says something good about his character. I don’t think he was a force for good – he seemed so angry so often about any hint of liberalism that he made life more difficult for many ordinary Americans. But attached you will find a picture of him riding an elephant with the Notorious RBG, who despite differing views seemed to be his favourite Supreme Court Justice. She’s also my favourite.

Yes, I typed this mainly so I could post a picture of Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg riding an elephant together. RIP.