The Raveler
May 16, 2017

Unraveling Scalia: The Judges Who Influenced Him and the Judges He Influenced

#ScaliaWeek continues at Ravel, and today we’re expanding on our first blog post about the judges that Justice Antonin Scalia found most influential. When we first considered this question, we limited it to the Supreme Court and discovered that Scalia’s affection for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg translated into case law as the number of times he cited to her grew with their friendship over time.

But what if we broadened the question to all federal judges? Would Scalia’s rate of citing to himself still continue to rank at the top? Did he value citing his contemporaries on the bench or did he prefer citing judges from the 1970s, when the Court shifted in a more conservative direction after President Richard Nixon appointed four new justices? We turned to Judge Analytics to find out.


The top ten judges that Scalia cited were other Supreme Court justices. With the exception of Justice Potter Stewart who retired in 1981, the others on the list overlapped in their tenure with Scalia who was appointed to the bench in 1986.

What we found interesting is that the four jurists he cited more than himself were considered moderates who advocated pragmatic views on both conservative and liberal issues. In fact, Justice William Brennan was similar to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in considering the Constitution to be a living document, sharply contrasting to Scalia’s own ideology. Of course, the fact that Brennan wrote over 1,200 opinions contributed to why he was frequently cited. But perhaps, like his friendship with Ginsburg, Scalia’s citations reflect his respect for his fellow jurist. In a PBS documentary about Brennan, Scalia said:

“Bill Brennan is probably the most influential justice of the century. I think he was the intellectual leader of a movement that really changed fundamentally the court’s approach towards the Constitution, not in a direction that I happen to agree with. The principal, remarkable point about him is that even those who were most in disagreement with him loved him... I really regard Bill, and always have, as one of my best friends.”

Of course, given how far apart they were on their constitutional philosophies, it could be that Scalia cited Brennan, not just out of respect, but also to disagree.

Who Scalia Influenced

Now that we know whom Scalia cited most frequently, we decided to see how his influence has trickled down to other federal courts. Who are the judges who found Scalia persuasive? Or who might have shared the same approach to the Constitution?


Our analytics revealed that there’s only one person who referred to Scalia more than Scalia himself, and that’s Judge Robert Mariani of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Other than that, we don’t see an obvious pattern amongst this top 10 list -- the judges all represent different levels and regions of our federal court system. There also doesn’t seem to be a trend in terms of political leanings, as the judges were appointed by both Republican and Democratic presidents.

We open it up to you, dear reader. What does this list of judges who cite to Scalia indicate to you? Any trends or commonalities that we may have missed?

We’re diving into our Judge Analytics platform for a deeper statistical understanding of Scalia’s career and will be sharing our findings in the next few days. Check back in for more data-driven insights on Scalia’s rulings.


More From Ravel