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Scalia remembered as blunt but charming during visit to Pittsburgh

| Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, 7:27 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (left) applauds after an operatic interlude by students of the Mary Pappert School of Music at the A.J. Palumbo Center, Saturday, September 24th, 2011, during the Duquesne School of Law's Centennial Keynote Address. At Scalia's left is Dr. Charles J. Dougherty, president of Duquesne University. (Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review) KJH scalia0925 4.jpg Mike Wereschagin story
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Ken Gormley (left) of Duquesne University laughs as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia tells a humorous anecdote during a panel discussion in the A.J. Palumbo Center on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was not one to put on airs, nor was he keen on sitting a long time for photo opportunities, a Duquesne University leader said.

“He was very outspoken, and what you see in the media is what you'd see in person,” Duquesne University President-elect Ken Gormley said. “He didn't hold back, but he was a lot of fun.”

When Gormley was dean of Duquesne's law school, he was surprised that Scalia immediately accepted his invitation to be a keynote speaker at the law school's centennial celebration in 2011.

Scalia was touched by the fact that it was the 100th anniversary of a Catholic law school that was built to provide educational opportunities to recent immigrants, Gormley said.

“That really struck a chord for him because, of course, his parents were Italian immigrants,” Gormley said.

Gormley spent time with Scalia at several events during the justice's visit, including at a private dinner that included Scalia, his former law clerks and Thomas Hardiman, a U.S. 3rd Circuit Judge.

Scalia was blunt but charming, Gormley said.

At the dinner, Scalia talked about the upcoming presidential election of 2012.

“He felt strongly that there should be a conservative in the White House,” Gormley said. “He was just kind of joking about that.”

Gormley didn't always agree with Scalia's views but respected that the justice always thought his decisions through carefully, he said.

A Fox Chapel resident whose chambers are Downtown, Hardiman spent time with Scalia at social functions for the national policy-making body for the federal courts.

“He revolutionized the way judges and lawyers interpret statutes,” Hardiman said. “He insisted that judges and lawyers focus on the text of the law, rather than what they thought was the legislative intent of the members of Congress who voted on the law.”

In Scalia's centennial address at Duquesne, he challenged officials to preserve the school's Catholic identity.

The justice's speech included a defense of religion in the public life and of an approach to constitutional law that he helped pull into the mainstream of legal thought.

“Our educational establishment these days, while so tolerant of and even insistent upon diversity in all other aspects of life, seems bent on eliminating diversity of moral judgment — particularly moral judgment based on religious views,” Scalia told the crowd.

Scalia's interpretation of the Constitution held that the meaning of the document's words didn't change over time.

“He was a conservative voice on the court before that was fashionable. He was often in dissent for many of the years” he served, Gormley said.

Tory N. Parrish is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Staff writer Mike Wereschagin contributed.

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