The Wit and Wisdom of Scalia: Nine Zingers

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Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday during his 29th year on the Supreme Court, was known for a sharp wit as well as a brilliant legal mind. Above, he speaks at a Reuters Newsmaker event in New York September 17, 2012. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

This article first appeared on The Daily Signal.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday during his 29th year on the Supreme Court, was known for a sharp wit as well as a brilliant legal mind, and he expressed both with his tongue as well as his pen.

Here is just a sample:

1. “What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you’d like it to mean?” (Remarks at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,  Washington, D.C., 2005.)

2. “There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all.” (Majority opinion, Arizona v. Hicks, 1987.)

3. “God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools…and he has not been disappointed.… If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.” (Speech at Living the Catholic Faith conference, 2012.)

4. “If you think aficionados of a living Constitution want to bring you flexibility, think again. You think the death penalty is a good idea? Persuade your fellow citizens to adopt it. You want a right to abortion? Persuade your fellow citizens and enact it. That’s flexibility.” Speech, Wilson Center,  2005.)

5. “The purpose of the Federalist Society was to bring together young people who had this skepticism about what they were being taught and to let them know that there were others who shared this skepticism.” (Remarks, Federalist Society’s 20th anniversary gala, 2002.)

6. “A law can be both economic folly and constitutional.” (Concurring opinion, CTS Corp. v. Dynamics Corp of America, 1987.)

7. “If we’re picking people to draw out of their own conscience and experience a ‘new’ Constitution, we should not look principally for good lawyers. We should look to people who agree with us. When we are in that mode, you realize we have rendered the Constitution useless.” (Speech, Wilson Center, 2005.)

8. “It is one of the unhappy incidents of the federal system that a self-righteous Supreme Court, acting on its members’ personal view of what would make a ‘more perfect Union’ (a criterion only slightly more restrictive than a ‘more perfect world’) can impose its own favored social and economic dispositions nationwide.” (Dissent, United States v. Virginia, 1996.)

9. “Bear in mind that brains and learning, like muscle and physical skill, are articles of commerce. They are bought and sold. You can hire them by the year or by the hour. The only thing in the world not for sale is character.” ( Commencement address, College of William and Mary, 1996.)

Ken McIntyre is chief White House correspondent at The Daily Signal and The Heritage Foundation's Marilyn and Fred Guardabassi fellow in media and public policy studies. Lyndsey Fifield contributed to this report.