10 Things You Didn't Know About Antonin Scalia

10 interesting facts about the Supreme Court justice.

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Compiled by U.S. News library staff

1. Antonin Scalia was born on March 11, 1936, in Trenton, N.J. His father, a Sicilian immigrant, was a professor of romance languages at Brooklyn College, and his mother, of Italian descent, was a public grade school teacher.

2. After graduating as valedictorian from Georgetown in 1957, he attended Harvard Law School, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduated magna cum laude.

3. Scalia and his wife, Maureen, married in 1960 and have nine children. During his nomination hearings, it was remarked that as a parent of nine, he had much experience in working with groups of nine.

4. Upon graduation from law school, Scalia practiced law with the firm Jones, Day, but left after six years, believing he was better suited to teaching law than practicing it. He taught administrative law at the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago; later, he was a visiting professor at Georgetown and Stanford. He moved into public service and held a variety of positions in the Nixon administration. After President Nixon resigned, President Ford assigned Scalia to determine the legal ownership of the Nixon tapes and documents. During a brief period between government service and his return to academia, Scalia served as scholar-in-residence at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. In 1982, President Reagan appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

5. Nominated by Reagan as an associate justice to replace William Rehnquist (who replaced Chief Justice Warren Burger upon Burger's retirement in 1986), Scalia was only 50 when his nomination hearings took place, making him the youngest justice on the Court at that time.

6. He dismayed many conservatives when he helped form the majority in a 5-4 decision in Texas v. Johnson, which struck down a Texas flag-burning prohibition.

7. Scalia was the first Italian-American to serve on the Supreme Court. During the opening remarks of his confirmation hearings, there was much ado over his ethnicity, prompting a chorus of "I'm Italian, too" remarks. This prompted Sen. Howell Heflin to remark, tongue-in-cheek, "I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that my great-great-grandfather married a widow who was married first to an Italian-American," to which Scalia quipped, "Senator, I have been to Alabama several times, too."

8. An opera aficionado, Scalia, along with fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appeared as an extra in a 1994 production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos. Scalia appeared onstage for about an hour and a half during the second act in a costume first worn by Plácido Domingo during the world première of Goya in 1986.

9. While many have noted his charms and dry sense of humor, his outspokenness has at times alienated and offended his fellow justices. Scalia often uses rhetorical extremes, labeling, for example, a colleague who won't side with him as being "perverse" or "irrational." After a long discourse on affirmative action, in which he concluded that it was the most evil fruit of a bad seed, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, having taken umbrage at his words, expressed her displeasure by saying, "But, Nino, if it weren't for affirmative action, I wouldn't be here."

10. It can be scientifically proved that, at least while they're listening to cases, Scalia is the funniest of the justices. As recently as 2004, the official court reporter identifies the justices' remarks, questions, and comments; using the notation "(laughter)," it also notes any justice-induced jocularity. After mining the transcripts from the 2004-2005 session, Boston University law Prof. Jay Wexler determined that Scalia was the funniest justice by a landslide, "instigating 77 laughing episodes."

Transcripts of Supreme Court nomination hearings
Associated Press
Encyclopedia of World Biography

Corrected on July 11, 2014: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Antonin Scalia as the youngest Supreme Court justice ever. At the time of his confirmation in 1986, he became the youngest justice on the current court.