POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School.
When a Justice of the United States Supreme Court dies while still in service, commentators typically come forward to denounce or praise the Justice’s Court decisions and engage in speculation about the Justice’s replacement. All of that, of course, is fair game.
All of us, no matter what our station, who have chosen the law as a profession must, if we are conscientious, think about how we will be remembered after we are gone and our work is done.
Justice Scalia served on the Supreme Court for thirty years and participated in numerous Court decisions that have divided commentators as to their merits. But whatever the merits, we should all be mindful of how much effort, devotion, and care must have been undertaken over decades to try to remain faithful to the solemn oath to preserve and protect the Constitution and laws of the United States.
One of the writings Justice Scalia most admired was the passage below from the 1960 play, A Man for All Seasons, about the life of Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England in the 16th Century. What the passage says about adherence to the law is perhaps worth remembering in our troubled times.
Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.