Justices as “Sacred Symbols”: Antonin Scalia and the Cultural Life of the Law

Brian Christopher Jones, Austin Sarat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
271 Downloads (Pure)


Perhaps no single judge in recent years has embodied the intricacies and difficulties of the cultural life of the law as much as American Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. While common law judges have traditionally acquired status—and cultural relevance—from the significance, eloquence and forcefulness of their judicial opinions, Justice Scalia took an altogether different route. Both on and off the bench, he pushed the limits of legal and political legitimacy. He did this through a strict adherence to what we call a “judicial mandate,” flamboyant but engaging writing, biting humor and widespread marketing of his originalist and textualist interpretative theories. This article chronicles these features of Scalia’s jurisprudence and public life more generally, ultimately characterising the late justice as a “sacred symbol” in American legal and political circles, and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-23
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of American Legal Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2017


  • Antonin Scalia
  • Sacred symbol
  • Supreme Court
  • Originalism
  • Textualism
  • Law and Culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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