WASHINGTON—Maureen Scalia, the widow of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, attended President Donald Trump’s national address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday night as the president and first lady’s guest.
Justice Scalia passed away one year ago, in February 2016, during a hunting trip in Texas. He was a transformational figure in American law. He is credited in large part for the modern trend in writing court opinions of quoting the relevant text of the Constitution or federal statute early in the opinion as the basis for a careful examination of those words, providing the foundation of the entire opinion.
By rooting court opinions in the words of the law, Scalia is famous for having been a leading proponent of originalism: that every written law, whether the Constitution (as the Supreme Law of the Land), a statute, a regulation, or any other public document should be assigned the original public meaning of those words, as determined by examining its text, structure, and history.
Federal judges serve lifetime appointments. According to Scalia, originalism is the only legitimate way for unelected and politically unaccountable judicial officers to interpret the law in the democratic republic set forth in the Constitution, where everyone else in power is ultimately answerable to the people at the ballot box.
A graduate of Georgetown and Harvard Law School and the former head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Scalia is regarded as one of the greatest intellects ever to serve on the Supreme Court.
Last month, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to succeed Scalia on the nation’s highest court. A graduate of Harvard, Columbia Law School, and Oxford University (where he received a doctorate degree), Gorsuch is likewise considered a deeply philosophical judge who—if he proves as consistently conservative as Republicans hope—would be a fitting successor to the legendary conservative lion, one who could carry on Scalia’s legacy.
Presidents and first ladies typically invite honored guests to highlight key points in each address before Congress. Maureen Scalia carried the honor of highlighting the service the Scalia family has given to the nation and promoting Gorsuch’s nomination to fill Justice Scalia’s vacant seat on the High Court.
Born Maureen McCarthy, the late justice’s widow was raised as a devout Irish Roman Catholic. It should be no surprise that she married another devoted Catholic, Antonin Scalia, who was of Italian descent. Now age 77, Mrs. Scalia had nine children with her husband and now has 38 grandchildren and their first great-grandchild.
When people frequently lauded his children for their successful careers and conservative principles, the justice always credited Maureen, noting that his career has involved long hours and that his wife was devoted to raising their large family.
Antonin Scalia passed away at the age of 79.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News and a 2008 graduate of the Scalia Law School at George Mason University. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.