JACKSON – Mississippi Republicans are fondly remembering U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who frequently hunted in Mississippi along his friend, retired 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Charles Pickering.
Scalia was found dead at a Texas ranch Saturday where he had gone to hunt quail.
Scalia sometimes combined hunting trips with speeches at Mississippi schools, including one in 2014 where he and fellow Justice Elena Kagan made a rare joint appearance at the University of Mississippi.
Pickering told The Clarion-Ledger that after two failed tries to get Scalia to speak at the University of Southern Mississippi, he offered a combination package.
“I went back and told him if he’d come that we would take him deer hunting and bass fishing,” Pickering said Saturday evening after learning of Scalia’s death. “After it got out that if you took him hunting or fishing that he would come speak, he started getting invitations all over the place.”
From that time forward, Pickering said he hunted with Scalia at least once a year. He said he had upcoming trips planned with Scalia in April and May.
“We hunted in Texas and Georgia, from Florida to Colorado,” Pickering said. “Wesley Breland, Lewis Griffin and I introduced him to duck hunting, and (U.S. District Judge David) Bramlette and I introduced him to deer hunting. I feel like we introduced him to a new part of his life that was very meaningful.”
It was the lure of duck hunting in the Mississippi Delta that brought Scalia and Kagan to Ole Miss. They gave a warm talk that often lauded each other, even though the conservative Scalia – insisting the Constitution means the same as 200 years ago – often voted at odds with the liberal Kagan – who told the crowd that the nation’s foundational law must have “flexibility.”
“He was just a great wit. He was so funny she was laughing at everything he said,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said of Scalia’s interactions with Kagan during the hunt, which Hosemann attended. “I will miss him, just duck hunting, being out with him as a regular guy. But this is a real loss to the country, and to those of us who believe in the Constitution, because he was a real champion for it.”
“Justice Scalia was the greatest legal mind of our time and will be missed by all who love this nation and what it stands for,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement. “He enjoyed our great state and its people. Mississippi has lost a friend.”
Speaking on his own, Scalia could be much more tart. In a 2012 talk at the University of Southern Mississippi, defending a Supreme Court decision allowing jail inmates to be strip searched, Scalia said “the same people who are suing them for the strip search would be suing them for being stabbed by someone with a shiv.”
It was in Hattiesburg in 2004 that a Scalia trip to Mississippi made the biggest news. U.S. Marshals seized digital recorders from reporters for the Associated Press and the Hattiesburg American. After the AP sued, the government conceded that the Marshals Service had violated federal law when it ordered the reporters to erase their recordings of Scalia’s speech at Presbyterian Christian School. Scalia also apologized, calling the incident a misunderstanding.