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Rubio Campaign Press Release - Read Marco Rubio's Stirring Tribute to Justice Scalia

February 20, 2016


February 20, 2016
By Marco Rubio

Antonin Scalia entered the world as the son and grandson of Italian immigrants in 1936. When he unexpectedly departed this life last week, he was the patriarch of a large American family and the intellectual father of the most important legal movement in generations. Between those points, he lived an extraordinarily full life that helped shaped the course of our country.

By 1980, Scalia had already accomplished more at the age of 44 than most can ever hope to in a lifetime. He had been a distinguished lawyer, served at the highest levels of the government, and taught at the country's best law schools. He might have continued to develop a reputation as the nation's brightest law professor and scholar, but providence had still more to ask of him.

Upon his election, President Ronald Reagan came to Washington with a mission to restore a country that seemed divided and in decline. He promised to rebuild our military, revive our economy, and restore our sense of purpose. Just as critical as these efforts, Reagan was determined to bring new life to our founders' vision of our Constitution, which provided for carefully limited government, separation of powers and the rule of law. In accordance with that determination, Reagan appointed Scalia first to the critical D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court of the United States. The three decade judicial career that followed would establish Justice Scalia as one of the most influential American jurists — and one of the most consequential Americans — in our nation's history.

The federal judiciary that Scalia joined in 1982 had, for too long, both abused and shirked its proper role. It had stripped the American people and their elected representatives of their legitimate powers by inventing brand new "constitutional rights" practically out of thin air. Just as troubling, it had failed to uphold the very real constitutional limits on government. The courts too often treated the text of statutes as mere suggestions and often appointed themselves as a kind of super-legislature.

Scalia would not stand for this. He saw this prevailing approach of judges as an abuse of power and a threat to a free and self-governing people. For Scalia, the rule of law was the touchstone of liberty, and judges had an important role in upholding it. He understood that America has a written constitution for clear reasons: to restrict government and preserve liberty. As a judge, Scalia insisted that the Constitution be applied as written and originally understood, not freely interpreted by unelected judges. If the Constitution must change, as it has needed to throughout our history, the document itself offers an amendment process.

Justice Scalia had a sharp and well-articulated legal philosophy that put the text and meaning of the Constitution and law front and center. A judge, Scalia believed, must put aside his policy preferences in order to say what the law is. "The judge who always likes the results he reaches is a bad judge," he said.

Justice Scalia lived out this approach on the bench. His majority opinions established clear and well-articulated precedents. His sharp and colorful dissents brilliantly exposed moments when too many of his colleagues preferred to put policy preferences and outcomes above the Constitution and the rule of law. For conservatives, the words "Scalia dissents" always offered a silver lining; they meant that a likely damaging legal precedent would at least come pre-packaged with a wonderfully readable corrective.

Whether he was on the majority or minority side of a decision, the forceful logic and clear phrasing of Scalia's opinions commanded attention and engagement. Over time, his most reliable intellectual adversaries found themselves increasingly forced to fight on the ground he established. While Justice Scalia did not win every argument, he changed the conversation forever. Judicial activism no longer has a free hand, because Scalia challenged it and inspired an entire generation of legal minds to follow his example.

His judicial writing alone would have changed American law and advanced the cause of liberty, but Justice Scalia went further than that. He wrote books, lectured and mentored students. He traveled around the country, engaged the media, and debated colleagues and critics. His many law clerks now distinguish themselves throughout the legal profession. The Federalist Society, which he helped nurture in its fledgling years, now provides a lively forum for a variety of conservative and libertarian perspectives on law. Antonin Scalia has left us a legal culture absolutely transformed from the one he found.

Justice Scalia's judicial opinions, legal philosophy, and forceful advocacy for the rule of law inspired me as a law student and continue to inspire me to this day. While a wide array of life experiences and values have shaped the way I see America and the world, Antonin Scalia has been the single most important influence on my view of the Constitution and the proper role of judges in our Republic as men and women who should put the original meaning of our Constitution ahead of their policy preferences.

Clearly, the Supreme Court will continue wrestling with cases impacting freedom of speech, religious liberty, the right to keep and bear arms, the death penalty, abortion, the definition of marriage, and affirmative action. It will consider the constitutionality of this president's lawless affronts to our Constitution in the form of behemoth regulatory policies like the Clean Power Plan and his immigration executive orders. The Court will continue examining the constitutionality of measures we undertake to keep our people safe in the face of growing terrorist threats.

But the stakes surrounding this Supreme Court vacancy will likely be even more profound because of the way this 21st century has unfolded so far. In this rapidly changing world, where new technologies, new security threats, growing government, and unprecedented assaults on faith are becoming all too commonplace, some judges will be increasingly tempted to step in to fill what they perceive to be policy voids our elected officials are "too slow" to address. They will be more tempted than ever to "update" the Constitution on their own to keep up with their sense of where the American people are.

They would be wrong to do any of this, because one of the most important qualities all future justices must possess is the fortitude to resist the temptation to substitute the people and make new laws, or constitutional rights, on their own. I will not only nominate judges that recognize this, but I will also put the weight of the presidency behind an Article V Constitutional Convention that amends the Constitution to, among other things, impose term limits on both Congress and the federal judiciary, with the people's consent. Justice Scalia often fondly quoted Lord Acton's truth that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

As Reagan's choice of Scalia has shown, the judgment a president shows in choosing Supreme Court justices is one of the most important enduring legacies of any presidency. In choosing Supreme Court justices, there can be no more surprises, no more stealth candidates, and no more relatively "blank slates" that offer paths of least resistance in confirming them. As president, I will nominate highly qualified individuals to the highest court of the land with a proven track record of abiding by our Constitution's original meaning. Just as importantly, as president, I will fight for their confirmation, whatever political capital it may cost. This will begin with the selection of Justice Scalia's successor and follow with any other vacancy that may arise.

But there will be a time and place for that — after this presidential election. For now, we remember the man our country has just lost.

Justice Scalia's life is a testimony to the fact that ideas matter. It is proof that a person of principle, with the willingness to invest in debate and persuasion, can change history. His life also reminds us of another important truth. Particularly in these sharply divided partisan times, we can lose sight of the fact that the things that unite us are more important than the things that divide us. Justice Scalia never did. He knew the Constitution was his sole guide in his professional life, but he was also a devout Catholic who accepted that God has a plan for all of us. He took evident joy in living out his faith, in loving his family and in nurturing countless friendships, even with his ideological foes. We should all be grateful that God's plan for our nation, especially the people whose paths he crossed, included having Justice Scalia on the Court for the past thirty years. He was a role model for all us, and particularly for Christians in public life.

As a U.S. senator, I led a bipartisan group of colleagues in filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court. The brief, submitted in the case of Town of Greece vs. Galloway, defended the practice of legislative prayer. It argued that the original meaning of the First Amendment clearly did not require the purging of religious expression from the public square. I attended the oral argument in the case and will forever be grateful for having had the opportunity to watch Justice Scalia's sharp and incisive questioning from the bench.

Although I did not have the good fortune to get to know Justice Scalia personally, he had a profound impact on me. All those who cherish the Constitution and limited government mourn this great loss. Justice Scalia was a brilliant legal mind who served with honor, distinction and only one legal objective: to interpret and defend the Constitution as written. He is a model for exactly what his successor and all future justices should strive to be on the highest court in the land.

As America honors Antonin Scalia's life and lays him to rest today, my thoughts and prayers are especially with those who knew him best: his wife Maureen, his nine children and many grandchildren, his law clerks, and his friends of all political persuasions.

Antonin Scalia left us far too soon, but his legacy will remain with us as long as we remain a Republic under law.

Marco Rubio, Rubio Campaign Press Release - Read Marco Rubio's Stirring Tribute to Justice Scalia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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