While the seminal legal findings produced by late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month, will certainly serve as a historical touchstone for those who cleave to an “originalist” view of constitutional law, attorney’s and legal scholars in Louisiana offered more personal views of the man.
“He did ask tough questions, which were expected," Lafourche Chief Public Defender Mark Plaisance, who argued a case in front of Scalia in October 2015, recently told the Louisiana Record. "While his questions made me think, it also gave me an opportunity to assert my argument.”
Nevertheless, Plaisance, who ultimately won his case, also said that Scalia was clearly interested in “encouraging” lawyers to argue more clearly, or as he offered in conclusion, “…the toughest questions are the best opportunity to make your strongest argument.”
From a more scholarly, yet more personal, perspective, Paul Baier, a professor at Louisiana State University's Paul Hebert Law Center, offered a past anecdote on Scalia's refined sense of humor along with a number of written excerpts from his 2007 Louisiana Law Review article entitled, “Scalia – Twenty In Retrospect."
“Scalia remains a friendly knife-fighter; vociferous; argumentative; hard-boiled; Sicilian,” Baier wrote.
But at the same time, Baier suggested that Scalia had reason to be combative because he felt that he was a committed protector of “original thought” when it came to the Constitution itself and was always ready to defend against any perspective that revised the framer’s essential intent.
“I am chained because of my theory of the Constitution, to what each provision was adopted and ratified,” Baier quoted Scalia as saying.
Nevertheless, while Scalia was a man of firm convention, Baier says that he also projected a refined sense of humor.
"I recall that Justice Scalia was at LSU Law Center when the restoration of the Old Law School was complete, courtesy of Gov. Mike Foster and the legislature," Baier said. "He spoke to faculty, students and dignitaries. He told us that after being on the (Supreme) Court for a number of terms, he realized that what law professors do for their students is more important than his work on the court. 'Take a law professor to lunch,' he blurted out. That sticks with me."
In Baier's view, Scalia’s loss is potentially immeasurable in terms of his respect for his legal colleagues, the Supreme Court and the United States.
"Antonin Scalia has proven to be a surpassing Supreme Court Justice… .," Baier wrote in his 2007 article. "I have in mind the definition found in Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language; ‘1. To pass or go beyond or over; to surmount.' ... Twenty years show Antonin Scalia a sea crashing over the court, condemning his colleagues for surpassing the bounds of the bounds of the Constitution.”