Scalia Tenacious After Staking Out a Position

By Ruth Marcus and Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 22, 1986

When a fellow judge sends him a draft opinion for review, said a former appeals court clerk, Antonin Scalia "will send back a memo praising the opinion, and then say, 'I will join if you make the following 19 changes.' "

That number might be exaggerated, but his liberal colleague on the appeals court here, Judge Abner J. Mikva, said, "He understands the doctrine of collegiality and has in fact found middle ground, and I think he's good at it." However, Mikva said, once Scalia has decided a certain way, "there's no shaking him loose."

By all accounts, Scalia, President Reagan's choice for the Supreme Court, has been convinced for years of the correctness of his positions and has not been shy about saying so.

"When Nino Scalia had done the work on the issue and had come to a conclusion, that really was it," former deputy attorney general Edward C. Schmults recalled of Scalia's work as head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in the Ford administration. "He didn't change his mind because a Cabinet secretary or even the president would have liked a different result."

Even at Harvard Law School in the late 1950s, where Scalia was far more conservative than his liberal classmates of the Warren Court era, "If you didn't feel like having a good debate about something, you'd better avoid him," said Philip B. Heymann, who now teaches law there.

"He was less enthralled with the liberal aura of the times than the rest of us," said Daniel K. Mayers, Scalia's fellow officer on the Harvard Law Review and now a partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering here. "I remember him saying 25 years ago over a beer that he just had grave doubts that government could do much to change the plight of disadvantaged people."

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© 1986 The Washington Post Company