Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a celebrated conservative and an “originalist.” He believed the Constitution is not that open for interpretation and that the original words of the Founding Fathers are not meant to adapt as society evolves.

But Scalia did believe in having his ideas challenged, and he hired several clerks with liberal politics to work for him at the Supreme Court before he died in 2016.

The play “The Originalist” examines Scalia’s relationship with one such “counter clerk” and it’s taken on new life following his death. Scalia was replaced with another originalist on the court — Justice Neil Gorsuch, who is projected to continue a legacy of conservative decisions and dissents.

We consider originalism as a school of legal thought and the different approaches to the Constitution the current nine justices take in deciding the law of the land.


  • Edward Gero Award-winning actor whose work includes playing the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in "The Originalist"
  • Ian Samuel Climenko fellow and lecturer on law at Harvard Law School; host of First Mondays, a podcast about the Supreme Court
  • Joan Biskupic Legal analyst and Supreme Court biographer for CNN; author of books on Sandra Day O'Connor and Antonin Scalia
  • Adam Liptak Legal correspondent, The New York Times

Which Justice Would You Like To Be?

We asked our text club (join by texting 1A to 63735) which Supreme Court justice, past or present, they would most like to be.

The favorites were the iconic modern justices. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who has become a pop culture favorite) topped the list, followed closely by Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the court. After that, the results were more mixed. Sandra Day O'Connor, who was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, had a contingent of fans, as did John Marshall, an early chief justice who helped establish the court's place in government. Two respondents said they wanted to be Roger Taney in order to overturn the Dredd Scott decision. And, one listener wanted to be Byron "Whizzer" White, who, prior to joining the court, had a career as an NFL halfback.

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