Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Speaks at Law Center

November 28, 2012 — “My hope is for the next generation; that’s who you write books for,” said Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the inaugural event of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution on November 20. The same day, Scalia was a guest teacher in Professor Randy Barnett’s “Recent Books on the Constitution” seminar.

“The fact that Justice Scalia is the first speaker at an event sponsored by the Center is extremely fitting, because the mission of the Center is to study and develop the theory and practice of originalist textualism,” said Barnett, the Center’s director.

This approach is central to Scalia’s new book Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (West, 2012), which is, the justice says, “the first effort in a century to bring together the principle canons of interpretation, principles of how to discern the reasonable meaning of a text.” 

“Because of the work of Justice Scalia and others, constitutional history matters,” said Dean William M. Treanor, opening the event. “One of the fabulous things this [new] Center is going to do is to bring together history and law in the most serious way, and I thank Justice Scalia on behalf of every constitutional historian, for giving our work meaning.” 

Scalia also took written questions from the audience. Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, which co-sponsored the event, pointed out that the questions were different from the usual ones. “No one is asking about your favorite opera or your favorite pasta” at a law school, he said.

When asked, “which of the Founding Fathers is your favorite?” Scalia said, “That’s not a hard question — the indispensable man, George Washington.” And when quizzed about what advice he would give to law students, Scalia responded, “Take the basic courses for God’s sake. You will never have another opportunity to study systemically an entire area of law, bankruptcy, intellectual property, whatever. And when you get out of law school try to find a firm that will enable you to live a humane existence.” 

In closing, Barnett told the audience that he was going to a Bob Dylan concert later that evening. “Somehow, I think that I will have seen two rock stars tonight.” 

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