He was pro-Aereo, anti-same sex marriage and one of the most combative members of the Supreme Court of the modern age. With that, the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last night leaves a complicated legacy for conservatives, liberals and Hollywood. A strong proponent of the vigorous free enterprise system that Hollywood likes, the Senior Associate Justice was also one of only three dissenters on the nation’s top court who voted in mid-2014 against the broadcasters in the Aereo battle that could have been a game changing decision for the television industry.
“This case is the latest skirmish in the long-running copyright battle over the delivery of television programming,’ wrote Justice Scalia scathingly almost 2-years ago over the copyright infringement case before the SCOTUS. “The Court manages to reach the opposite conclusion only by disregarding widely accepted rules for service-provider liability and adopting in their place an improvised standard (‘looks-like-cable-TV’) that will sow confusion for years to come,” the Ronald Reagan appointed conservative added, taking a typical unconventional stance. At the April 22, 2014 oral arguments hearing in the Aereo case, Scalia slightly tipped his position when he snapped at the broadcaster’s advocate former Solicitor General Paul Clement with a “do you have some other rebuttal points?” Making the remark more biting was the fact that Clement was an ex-law clerk of Scalia’s.
Of course, while the Barry Diller-backed streaming service was soon shuttered, Scalia was on the wrong side of most of Hollywood when in June 2015 he voted against overturning state bans on same-sex marriage. While the Court’s ruling was widely applauded by the Obama administration and the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Murphy, Lena Dunham and many more, Justice Scalia’s objection only solidified his long standing role as one of the strongest voices of conservatism this town and this country had seen on the top Court in many decades.
Still today, Barack Obama only had words of sorrow to add to the public record over the 79-year old Scalia’s death. “This afternoon the President was informed of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,” said Deputy press secretary Eric Schultz from Palm Springs where the President is this weekend. “The President and First Lady extend their deepest condolences to Justice Scalia’s family.”
Scalia reportedly became ill last night during a hunting trip in Marfa, Texas. While Obama’s words of condolence address the immediate impact of his death, Scalia’s passing could see a shift on the Supreme Court that will please many in Hollywood – at least culturally. A successful nomination of a new SCOTUS Justice named to replace Scalia would shift the top court from its current conservative majority and to a more liberal posture. The question of Scalia’s replacement is sure to be a major topic at tonight’s Republican debate.
The longest-serving Supreme Court justice of the current era, Scalia was appointed by President Reagan in 1986 and unsurprisingly was known as the Supreme Court’s most conservative justice.