Justice Scalia’s Rule of Law Efforts
Justice Scalia’s passing comes as a shock and is generating tributes across ideological lines. Indeed, whether you agreed with his opinions or not (and I was not a fan of his thinking on cases like Sosa or Bond), Justice Scalia’s opinions deserved to be read. Lines like “never-say-never jurisprudence” and “oh-so-close-to-relevant cases” are some of my personal favorites. Readers should feel free to add their own in the comment section.
In the meantime, I wanted to pay tribute to a side of Justice Scalia that has garnered relatively little attention — his dedication to promoting the rule of law. For the last sixteen years, Temple Law has run a rule of law program in Beijing hosted at Tsinghua University’s School of Law. We offer an LLM to classes of 50 Chinese judges, prosecutors and lawyers, in an effort to acquaint them with the U.S. legal system and the rule of law more generally. As part of the program, the Chinese students visit Philadelphia for the summer, which includes a day trip to D.C. And nearly every year the highlight of that D.C. trip was an hour long private audience with Justice Scalia. Justice Scalia would speak for a few minutes but most of the time was devoted to answering student questions. We conducted the sessions off the record, so I do not feel comfortable opining on who said what, but I always came away impressed by the honesty, vigor and intellectual quality of the exchange. I was universally impressed with Justice Scalia’s wit and candor. He offered the students a true model of free speech in the U.S. legal tradition. I don’t know if Temple’s China program was the only time he did this, or if this effort was one of many to expand the rule of law. But I can say it was a highly effective one. And so, as the nation mourns the passing of one of its most opinionated justices, I wanted to offer my own small tribute of appreciation to a man who, for whatever else he believed, was committed to the idea of democracy and the values of liberty and equality on which it stood.