Author: sarahwornow7

Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court Career Did More Good Than Harm


CON (4 arguments)

Weighing Mechanism: The side that best shows that Justice Scalia’s career did more harm to either the people of this country or to the institution of the Supreme Court should win this debate.  

1. Scalia hurt the country when he openly discriminated against racial and sexual minority groups, perpetuating the idea that people should not have equal rights in the US.
Warrant:

Scalia made arguments in court that were extremely stereotypical and untrue, only further entrenching the problematic mindset of some bigoted people in our country. Since he was such a well-known figure, his statements didn’t just have implications for a small group of people around him; his judgments were heard by American citizens and people all around the world, and that had large, negative impacts in perpetuating stereotypes. This was also a huge embarrassment for the institution of the Supreme Court.

Impact:

According to the Washington Post, when ruling in a court case, Scalia said, “It does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well." This statement suggests that African-Americans are inherently less intelligent as people of other races, and as someone with such high status in the United States, his statements only further encourage white supremacists and racists to continue discriminating against racial minorities. When discussing the issue of equal rights of gay individuals, Scalia stated, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” Despite America being a place where equality among all is promoted, Scalia described homosexuality as awful as murdering another human being, which only encourages people to continue being homophobic.

2. Scalia’s supposedly constitutional judgments solely reflected his personal opinions on issues and ultimately hurt the lives of US citizens and set a precedent for unprofessional judging.
Warrant:

Scalia is often described as being a hard constitutionalist who closely followed the text. However, this just is not true. He directly contradicted amendments solely for the purpose of perpetuating his own ideas on these issues, such as gender issues. This ultimately hurt women in the United States because he justified discrimination against them. In addition, this sets a precedent where other judges think it is valid to use one’s own opinions in ruling, which is unprofessional and unjust.

Impact:

Despite the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause clearly stating “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued that this amendment did not protect against discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

Sources:

LA Times

3. Scalia’s decisions set the precedent for allowing corruption within the US government and in elections.
Impact:

As a Supreme Court justice, Scalia’s decisions will continue to influence future rulings even though he has passed. In a case where a corporation tried to influence the US Secretary of Agriculture by giving him over $6,000 worth of gifts, Scalia wrote the majority opinion that this was not bribery and corruption.  Scalia went on to suggest that using money to influence power through gifts is both inevitable and not troubling. This decision ultimately supported and validated corporations’ use of bribery to convince governmental officials to help them. This ultimately has very harmful effects for the future of the country because allowing governmental officials to receive bribes from corporations means that officials are not working in the interest of United States citizens, as they should, but rather, they are making decisions because of the money they receive from corporations.  The result of this case was the foundation for the more controversial and harmful ruling in Citizens United which ruled that companies should be viewed as people with a right of free speech. The result is that companies can give money freely to political campaigns and influence the outcome of elections. This case was harmful for the country because it substantially weakens corruption laws and allows a handful of billionaires to spend millions of dollars promoting their personal agendas.

Sources:

Salon.com (online news site about U.S. politics and current affairs)

4. Justice Antonin Scalia is setting a terrible example for young lawyers with a disrespectful, sarcastic and personal tone he has set in the courtroom and in his written opinions.
Warrant:

Scalia's bad attitude, just like his legal theory, negatively affects the profession as a whole and hurts the reputation of the Supreme Court.

Impact:

Justice Scalia’s sometimes withering questioning helped transform what had been a sleepy bench when he arrived into one that Chief Justice Roberts has said has become too active, with the justices interrupting the lawyers and each other. 

Scalia once referred to another Justice’s opinion as "gobbledy-gook" and said his argument was "nonsense." Scalia has long relied on ridicule. In past years he has dismissed his colleagues' decisions as "nothing short of ludicrous" and "beyond absurd," "entirely irrational" and “not passing the most gullible scrutiny." He has called them "preposterous" and "so unsupported in reason and so absurd in application as unlikely to survive." In the case of Obergefell vs. Hodges, which struck down state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, Scalia said that Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion was "as pretentious as its content is egotistic.” In a footnote to the case he likened the majority opinion to the "mystical aphorisms of a fortune cookie."  This is clearly disrespectful to his colleagues and it is vital that the public respect the holdings of the Supreme Court.  Justice Scalia’s crass remarks undermine that respect and thus, his career has done more harm than good.

Sources:

New York Times