The Supreme Court The Supreme Court - Image of hands holding a gavel.
Check local listings
Home Timeline Games Supreme Court History
The Future of the Court
Biographies of the Robes
E-Mail this Page Print Format Glossary

Portrait of Antonin Gregory Scalia
Portrait of Antonin Gregory Scalia.
Reproduction courtesy of the Supreme Court Historical Society.
Antonin Gregory Scalia

b. March 11, 1936, Trenton, NJ

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

Antonin Gregory Scalia was the only child of an Italian immigrant couple. His father was a professor of romance languages and his mother was a school teacher. When he was five the family moved to New York City so his father could teach at Brooklyn College. Scalia attended public school in Queens before entering St. Francis Xavier, a military prep school in Manhattan, where he graduated first in his class. He went on to Georgetown University, where he majored in history and graduated summa cum laude and valedictorian of his class in 1957. Scalia entered Harvard Law School, where he served as editor of the HARVARD LAW REVIEW, and he graduated magna cum laude in 1960. After obtaining his law degree, Scalia spent a year traveling through Europe on a Sheldon Fellowship from Harvard.

In 1961 Scalia went into private practice with a firm in Cleveland; he remained there until 1967, when he joined the faculty at the University of Virginia Law School. In 1971 he served as general counsel to the Office of Telecommunications Policy in the Nixon administration, where he worked on policy relating to the fledgling cable television industry. Between 1972 and 1974 he served as chair of the Administrative Conference of the United States, which examined the structure and procedures of government agencies. President Richard Nixon nominated Scalia to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, and he went on to serve as Assistant Attorney General in that office during the administration of President Gerald Ford.

When Jimmy Carter became president, Scalia left government and joined the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School (1977-1982) and was also a visiting professor at Georgetown University and at Stanford University. In 1982 President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Four years later Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court. He was approved by a Senate vote of 98-0, and he joined the Court in September 1986.

Outspoken, opinionated, argumentative, and often hyperbolic in his rhetorical style, Scalia embraced the role of intellectual provocateur on the Court. Though capable of great charm, he has offended colleagues on occasion with his pointed and off-the-cuff remarks. A staunch conservative, he believes in interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning and the exact formulation of its text. He ardently rejects the concept of a "living Constitution," and he advocates giving great latitude to legislative bodies in making laws while limiting the role of the Supreme Court in interpreting them. Overwhelmingly conservative in most matters, Scalia's approach to constitutional law has occasionally led him to side with those who are politically liberal. While he favors overruling Court decisions whose reasoning he considers faulty, he has expressed a respect for precedent. Resolving conflicts between precedent and strict readings of the Constitution has become a recurring theme in Scalia's opinions.

John Fox, a writer and documentary film producer, was series producer of the Emmy-winning PBS series HERITAGE: CIVILIZATION AND THE JEWS. Editor-in-chief of the award-winning HERITAGE DVD-ROM, he supervised the creation of its 540-map interactive atlas of world history. He is currently writing a book about the growth of communal intelligence over the centuries.

Anthony Kennedy David Souter Clarence Thomas Ruth Bader Ginsburg view all biographies Antonin Scalia John Paul Stevens Stephen Breyer John Roberts Samuel Alito