dissentAfter Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent death, one aspect of the deceased Justice’s long record on the Supreme Court that occasioned significant commentary was the extent to which he often dissented from the Court’s majority, sometimes employing sharp and even provocative language. While Scalia was a more frequent dissenter than many of his fellow justices, at least during the time he served on the Court, there was nothing particularly unusual about the fact that he was dissenting (or, for that matter, that he dissented so frequently). Dissenting opinions have been a part of the Court’s activities for many decades now; however, it was not always so. In the country’s earliest days, dissents were rare, becoming frequent only late in the 19th century, and becoming common only early in the 20th century. As well-documented in Melvin I. Urofky’s interesting and well-written book, Dissent and the Supreme Court (here), dissenting opinions at the U.S. Supreme Court have come to play an important role in our constitutional dialogue. Indeed, as Urshofsky argues, the leading dissents have played an important role in how the country thinks of itself.
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