In a 1981 Letter, Scalia Lists His GOP Bonafides

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Oct. 7 2013 1:00 PM

In a 1981 Letter, Scalia Lists His GOP Bonafides   

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Federal judges are supposed to be nonpartisan when they serve on the bench—yet to get appointed, they must gain the favor of a president and his administration. That means aspiring judges often navigate a complicated path. 

In this 1981 letter, current Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia writes to Deputy Attorney General Edward Schmults to highlight his political loyalties and his experience in government and legal practice. The day before writing the letter, Scalia met with Attorney General William French Smith to discuss possible positions in the Reagan administration.  

Advertisement

According to Scalia biographer Joan Biskupic, the future Supreme Court justice was “perpetually restless.” He had run the prestigious Office of Legal Counsel in the Ford administration before spending several years as an academic. (Scalia discussed his service in what he called the “wounded, enfeebled” Ford administration in his recent interview with New York magazine.) Now Scalia itched to get back into government, ideally as Reagan’s solicitor general. 

In his letter to Schmults, Scalia anxiously shares his “terrible feeling” that Attorney General Smith “may regard me as an academic who now and then dabbles in government.”  Scalia hastened to declare himself a loyal Republican whose “enthusiasm” for President Ronald Reagan and his policy agenda “is beyond question.”  

Scalia failed to get the solicitor general appointment—a bitter disappointment that, according to Biskupic, he “never forgot.”  President Reagan made up for it, however, by appointing Scalia to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia the following year and to the Supreme Court in 1986.

ScaliaLetterFinal

General Records of the Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Subject Files of the Attorney General William French Smith, 1981-1984. National Archives.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.