A law student’s goodbye to Antonin Scalia

Just a short while ago, countless news sources reported that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had passed away while on a hunting vacation in Texas (it seems like the death was from natural causes). Moments after hearing the news, I went to Facebook to post my own message of condolences and found my news feed filled with statuses, articles, and pictures of Justice Scalia posted by my fellow law students. That’s when I realized that this news means something different to law students.

In our 1L year, every law student is required to take constitutional law. After all, the Constitution is the backbone of our government and, thus, influences a lot of aspects of our lives. In that class, and others, we’ve read, debated, picked apart, analyzed, yelled at, and stared confusedly at SCOTUS opinions on any range of topics. When you’re a law student, you get personal with the SCOTUS justices.

I was lucky. My 1L year, Justice Scalia visited Tufts University to give a speech and I was able to go with a few of my classmates. Even if I had never seen him, though, I still felt like I had. These justices show us their souls when they write opinions. Without the fear of losing reelection to hold them back, they can say how they truly feel, and those who have read anything written by Scalia know that he does not hold back. Whether I’m agreeing or disagreeing with the words he’s written, I’m being given a window into his mind. And regardless of political opinions, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find many who say Scalia is not a brilliant man.

So, as a law student, I feel like this impressive man’s passing means something more to me. It means we won’t get more of his writing. We won’t hear him debate with the other justices. We won’t see how he handles future issues. A great man has left this earth.

It also means one of nine very important seats is now vacant. One of three branches to our government is inevitably going to change now. As law students, we have been taught the importance of these changes and while we grieve, we also recognize that there may be a big change coming in this country’s very near future.

Days like these make me realize exactly how much coming to law school has changed my life–even without me realizing it was happening most of the time. Being a law student is more than just reading cases and debating right versus wrong. It means seeing the world through an entirely new lens that I could not have gotten from any other life experience.

With that in mind, today I say goodbye to Justice Antonin Scalia. He was an incredible presence in my world and my thoughts are with all who knew him. He had a tremendous impact on law as it stands today and his voice will be missed. Rest in Peace.

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