...Antonin Scalia Advocates Positions Perfectly Consistent with Administration

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - Judge Antonin Scalia, whom President Reagan said Tuesday he will name to the Supreme Court, has criticized seve ral major Supreme Court precedents and expressed clear views contrary to existing law on a wide range of contentious issues.

His writings over the years have advocated positions almost perfectly consistent with the Reagan administration's conservative legal and political agenda, and considerably more so than the judicialopinions of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who is retiring.

Among the issues on which Scalia's conservative views appear to match those of the administration closely are abortion, desegregation through busing, preferences for women and members of minority groups, the Freedom of Information Act, and the need to curb lawsuits and to reduce the role of the courts in making policy.

While largely unknown to the general public, Scalia's record, both before and after Reagan named him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1982, has been closely studied by Justice Department officials.

They liked virtually everything they saw and have long listed him as a leading Supreme Court prospect. These officials view his planned elevation as a capstone of their efforts - which experts callthe most systematic by any administration in modern history - to reverse the course of the federal judiciary.

In opinions, articles and debates, Scalia has said or strongly suggested, among other things, that the Supreme Court was wrong to recognize a constitutional right to abortion, to approve ""racial affirmative action,'' to order busing as a desegregation remedy and to strike down all existing death penalty laws in 1972.

He has assailed what he calls the ""imperial judiciary'' as deciding issues it has no business deciding and as usurping the powers of other branches of government and of the states. He has criticized Congress as ducking political responsibility by writing righteous-sounding legislation so vague as to be ""absolutely meaningless.'' The result, he said, is that ""unelected judges are left to determine its real content.''

He has questioned both the constitutional basis for and the policy justification for acts of Congress that insulate more than a dozen independent agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Reserve Board, from presidential control.

He is viewed by libel experts as deeply hostile to Supreme Court rulings that, he has said, have ""fulsomely assured'' the protection of the press from libel suits by public officials and public figures.

In expressing his views, Scalia has won a reputation as one of the smartest, wittiest and most cogent stylists on the federal courts, using a combination of rigorous logic, caustic irony and elegant rhetoric to skewer his opponents.

This talent, which along with an appealing personality made him all the more attractive to conservatives seeking a champion at the Supreme Court, is viewed by some critics of his views with a mixture of concern - because it could magnify his impact - and admiration.

Bruce Sanford, a Washington lawyer and libel expert, said in an interview several months ago that Scalia was viewed by press lawyers ""as one of the worst judges in the country on First Amendment and libel issues.''

Sanford added, however: ""He's enormously intelligent. Ironically he is one of the best writers currently serving on the courts of appeals. What that man does with language in opinions is beautiful. He's humorous, he's savagely subtle, he's absolutely scathing at times, and just in reading it you can feel the emotional commitment that he has to his views in the libel area.''

In a 1979 article attacking affirmative action preferences for members of minority groups, for example, Scalia, stressing his own freedom from any notion of inherited racial guilt as the son of an Italian immigrant, facetiously suggested that if the nation's whites really wanted to repay a ""racial debt'' to various groups, a more finely tuned system could be devised:

""I have developed a modest proposal, which I call R. …