Elena Kagan Remarks at Antonin Scalia Law School Dedication

Elena Kagan Remarks at Antonin Scalia Law School Dedication

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[MUSIC] [APPLAUSE]>>Maureen and the rest of the Scalia family. I’m deeply honored to participate
in this dedication of the Antonin Scalia Law School. Although I have to admit, the name
strikes me as a little bit formal, I’m wondering if I can
substitute the word Nino.>>[LAUGH]
>>It’s so fitting, it’s so right, that a fine law school like this
one, should bear Justice Scalia’s name. One reason that’s true,
the obvious reason I suppose, has to do with what Justice Scalia
accomplished during his time on the bench. He’ll go down in history as
one of the most important Supreme Court Justices ever,
and also one of the greatest. His articulation of textualist and
originalist principles, communicated in that distinctive,
extraordinary prose, did nothing less than
transform our legal culture. It changed the way almost all judges,
and so almost all lawyers, think and
talk about the law. Even if they part ways at one or another
point, from his interpretive theories. In reading a statute, does anyone now decline to focus
first on its text in context? When addressing Constitutional meaning, does anyone now ignore
the Founders’ commitments? And in defending an interpretive stance, even if not just Justice Scalia’s own,
does anyone dispute the need to constrain judges from acting on
their personal policy preferences? If the answer is no, and
the answer is no, or mostly no.>>[LAUGH]>>Justice Scalia deserves much of the credit. And that is a legacy worthy
of a law school dedication. But there’s another reason George Mason
couldn’t have selected a better name for its law school. And that’s because no one
was more enthusiastic, more passionate, about connecting with
law students than Justice Scalia. He visited and revisited law schools
across the country to talk about ideas. As the Dean said, I once served as Dean
of the law school he graduated from. So I had the good fortune to host
the Justice several times, and those days were among the most
fun I ever had as Dean. Justice Scalia turned it all on. His brilliance, his wit, his good cheer. And his, well, let’s say, his confidence in the manifest
rightness of all his opinions.>>[LAUGH]>>Now, here’s the way Justice Scalia
described what he did on those trips. He said this a few years back. He said,
I go to law schools just to make trouble.>>[LAUGH]>>I give lectures and stir up the students.>>[LAUGH]
>>It takes several weeks for their professors to put
them back on track.>>[LAUGH]>>Actually, several weeks were rarely enough.>>[LAUGH]
>>Justice Scalia would go from event to event to event. From group to group to group,
exciting students. Challenging students,
provoking students, charming students. And making them think harder than they had
every thought before about how to do law. But really, Justice Scalia didn’t need to
show up in person to have that effect. He could grab hold of students,
shake them and turn them upside down solely by
means of his written opinions. He used to say that, when he wrote, law students were one of his target
audiences, maybe his principal one. And if my many hours teaching
law were in any way typical. He had an almost unerring instinct for
what would persuade them, or at least what would force them to question
some of their most subtled thinking. Justice Scalia’s opinions mesmerized
law students, and why shouldn’t they? Their captivating style full of wit,
dash, and verve. The analytic rigor and precision. The instance upon logic and
discipline in legal reasoning. The ability to convey ideas in the way that will make them
most stick with the reader. The very presence of ideas, deep thought-provoking understandings
of the way law should work. If I heard it once from a student, I heard it a thousand times. Professor Kagan, a student would say. I didn’t think I would ever
agree with Justice Scalia.>>[LAUGH]
>>But he just has to be right about this. And so he was, not always.>>[LAUGH]
>>But often. And so law students in generations
to come will tell their professors. And now some of those
students will look up and see Justice Scalia’s name on
their law school’s building. What a great, great thing. Congratulations to
George Mason University. And congratulations to
the Nino Scalia Law School.>>[LAUGH]
>>For memorializing, for celebrating, this most remarkable judge and teacher.>>[APPLAUSE]

2 thoughts on “Elena Kagan Remarks at Antonin Scalia Law School Dedication

  • Nicholas DiVita Post author

    Hats off to Justice Kagan. This is a genuine, professional and heartfelt tribute by one who rarely agreed with him. This is as much a credit to Justice Kagan as it is to deceased Justice Scalia.

  • Pamela Struss Post author

    Justice Kagan's speech is a fine example how to honor the person while disagreeing with their positions sometimes.

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