ARLINGTON, Va.—Six Supreme Court justices gathered on October 6 for the renaming of George Mason University School of Law in honor of Justice Antonin Scalia. The school, located in Arlington, Virginia, near the banks of the Potomac, will henceforth be called the Antonin Scalia Law School.
The university, which is named for the Father of the Bill of Rights, announced on March 31 its intention to name the school, after receiving a $20 million gift from an anonymous donor and another $10 million from the Charles Koch Foundation, on the condition that the law school be named in honor of the famed originalist scholar who served on the Court for almost 30 years. The gift also funds new scholarships and professorships at the law school.
Justice Elena Kagan, the newest member of the Court, spoke on behalf of the entire Court at the dedication ceremony, lauding her departed colleague as a “remarkable judge and teacher.”
Scalia “will go down in history as one of the most important Supreme Court justices ever, and one of the greatest,” Kagan declared. “He did nothing less than transform our legal culture.”
The five other justices of the High Court present for the ceremony were Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor.
Kagan’s participation was rich with symbolism in at least two regards. First, as an appointee of a liberal Democrat, Kagan’s warm and generous praise highlighted the camaraderie of the justices and the status they aspire to as a nonpolitical branch of government.
Second, like Scalia, Kagan was a prominent law professor before being appointed to the bench. In fact, Kagan was the dean of Harvard Law School, the school where she earned her law degree and which was Scalia’s alma mater, as well. (Scalia received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown.) So Kagan’s approval carries with it the applause of academia, in recognition of Scalia’s epic impact on legal philosophy.
Scalia was a champion of originalism–that in our democratic form of government, the Constitution requires that all laws (including the Constitution itself) must be interpreted according to the original public meaning of their words, which would have been the meaning approved by the American people in adopting those words.
Kagan knew Scalia before she joined the Court from his trips to Harvard Law School during her tenure as dean. After Kagan’s confirmation, Scalia became a close friend, taking her on hunting trips and other activities that were new experiences for Kagan. This outreach reflected Scalia’s approach to life and the ease with which he made friends, also seen in his close friendship with archliberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who shared a love of opera with Scalia.
University President Angel Cabrera and law school dean Henry Butler also participated in the naming ceremony.
Antonin Scalia passed away in his sleep during the nighttime hours of February 12 this year. He was 79.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News and a graduate of Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.