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
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
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. …