31 of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s Greatest Quotes

Scalia chuckling APCharles Rex Arbogast
AP/Charles Rex Arbogast

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died today of apparent natural causes, according to officials, after attending a private party at the Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas. In memory of his long career of constitutional originalism on the Supreme Court and his characteristic wit and good humor, here is a list of some of his greatest quotes:

Speaking to college graduates:

“Never compromise your principles, unless of course your principles are Adolf Hitler’s, in which case you would be well advised to compromise them as much as you can.” – Justice Scalia

“Indeed, follow your star if you want to head north and it’s the North Star. But if you want to head north and it’s Mars, you had better follow somebody else’s star.” – Justice Scalia

On following your conscience:

“More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly.”  – Justice Scalia 

“Sometimes people come up to me and inquire, ‘Justice Scalia, when did you first become an originalist?’ As though it’s some weird affliction, you know, ‘When did you start eating human flesh?'” – Justice Scalia 

On the game of soccer:

“If it were impossible for individual human beings (or groups of human beings) to act autonomously in effective pursuit of a common goal, the game of soccer would not exist.” –  Justice Scalia

On the lack of a Constitutional right to abortion:

“You think there ought to be a right to abortion? No problem. The Constitution says nothing about it. Create it the way most rights are created in a democratic society. Pass a law. And that law, unlike a Constitutional right to abortion created by a court can compromise.” – Justice Scalia

On the Constitution being a tool for change:

“A Constitution is not meant to facilitate change. It is meant to impede change, to make it difficult to change.” – Justice Scalia 

On disagreeing with people:

“I respect the people who have them, but I think those views are just flat out wrong.” – Justice Scalia

On his combative arguments in the Supreme Court:

“I attack ideas. I don’t attack people. And some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can’t separate the two, you gotta get another day job.”- Justice Scalia

On the F-word being used in modern television:

“I occasionally watch movies or television shows in which the f-word is used constantly, not by the criminal class but by supposedly elegant, well-educated, well-to-do people. The society I move in doesn’t behave that way. Who imagines this?” – Justice Scalia 

On arguing:

“I love to argue. I’ve always loved to argue. And I love to point out the weaknesses of the opposing arguments. It may well be that I’m something of a shin kicker. It may well be that I’m something of a contrarian.” – Justice Scalia 

On Bush v. Gore:

“I and my court owe no apology whatever for Bush versus Gore. We did the right thing. So there!” – Justice Scalia 

On his big family:

“Well, we didn’t set out to have nine children. We’re just old-fashioned Catholics, you know.” – Justice Scalia 

On God’s blessings on America:

God has been very good to us. One of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done him honor.” – Justice Scalia

On free speech:

“I think Thomas Jefferson would have said the more speech, the better. That’s what the First Amendment is all about.” – Justice Scalia

On the constitutionality of flag burning:

“If I were king, I would not allow people to go about burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged.” – Justice Scalia

On the Second Amendment:

“Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.” – Justice Scalia

In response to a Boston Herald article:

“From watching too many episodes of ‘The Sopranos,’ your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene.” – Justice Scalia

Defending a state’s right to make it’s own immigration laws:

“If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State.” – Justice Scalia 

His dissent in the Supreme Court ruling declaring Obamacare constitutional:

“This Court, however, concludes that this limitation would prevent the rest of the Act from working as well as hoped. So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere. We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.” – Justice Scalia 

“Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.” – Justice Scalia 

On the separation of powers and gridlock:

“If a bill is about to pass that really comes down hard on some minority [and] they think it’s terribly unfair, it doesn’t take much to throw a monkey wrench into this complex system. Americans should appreciate that; they should learn to love the gridlock. It’s there so the legislation that does get out is good legislation.” – Justice Scalia

“If you read the rest of the section, you would say, to find a way to find a meaning that the language will bear that will uphold the constitutionality. You don’t interpret a penalty to be a pig. It can’t be a pig.” – Justice Scalia 

In reaction to criticism from Obama:

“What can he do to me? Or to any of us? We have life tenure and we have it precisely so that we will not be influenced by politics, by threats from anybody.” – Justice Scalia 

His best friend in the Supreme Court:

“My best buddy on the court is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has always been.” – Justice Scalia 

On hunting with Dick Cheney:

“Dick Cheney is a very good wing shot.” – Justice Scalia

On breaking the law:

“I have exceeded the speed limit on — on occasion.” – Justice Scalia 

On being controversial:

“A man who has made no enemies is probably not a very good man.” – Justice Scalia

On whether moral principles are enforced in the Constitution:

“As I have observed before, the Constitution does not forbid the government to enforce traditional moral and sexual norms. … It is enough to say that the Constitution neither requires nor forbids our society to approve of same-sex marriage, much as it neither requires nor forbids us to approve of no-fault divorce, polygamy, or the consumption of alcohol.” – Justice Scalia 

On trying to legislate through the courts:

“Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.” – Justice Scalia 

On being a good judge:

“If you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.” – Justice Scalia 


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