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February 2017
Honoring Antonin Scalia: Dave Sagarin comments on Naming Federal Courthouses
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Newly-elected Fifth District Representative Tom Garrett's first act has been the introduction of a bill to name the Charlottesville Federal Building and Courthouse in honor of the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia taught at the UVa Law School for four years, but left to accept an appointment as counsel to a federal agency in 1971.

The building, at the intersection of West Main Street and Ridge-McIntire Road in downtown Charlottesville, houses the court and other federal agencies that serve a region including the city and nine surrounding counties. Charottesville and six of the counties are in the Fifth CD, while the remaining three are in the Seventh. Dave Brat represents the Seventh, and is a co-sponsor. Bratt and Garrett are Republicans, and are considered to be quite conservative in their orientation.

Cville Federal BUilding 
The Federal Building and Courthouse. Google streetview, October, 2016

Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer commented that ...[Garrett should] focus on delivering results for working families, not more political theater for the far right. Comments on news and social media sites in the Charlottesville area were mainly negative, either amplifying Signer's comment or vilifying Scalia.

A petition has been started by Architecture Prof and UCARE (University and Community Action for Racial Equity) Executive Director Frank Dukes. It asks for alternative suggestions, and offers some names related to the history of Vinegar Hill, an historically black community that was razed in the '60s for urban renewal, without regard for the future well-being of the residents. The courthouse sits at the southeast corner of the neighborhood.

Charlottesville and adjacent sections of Albemarle County are a liberal bastion in a very red region. Mrs Clinton received just under 80% of the vote in Charlottesville, to 13% for Trump. Yet Garrett won the District handily, getting 58% of the vote. Scalia is a darling of the right. He offered numerous quotable and often outrageous comments in public and in his opinions (often in dissent) on immigration, gay rights, abortion, affirmative action, and gun control. So the issue of honoring his memory has immediately become divisive.

Naming Courthouses

There are about 687 buildings in the U.S. that are or have been federal courthouses. Of these, about 212 have been named for people. The people so honored include three presidents (Reagan twice), four attorneys (Rush Limbaugh's grandfather is one), six governors, 57 members of the House of Representatives, 34 Senators (including one woman--Margaret Chase Smith of Maine), and 80 federal and appelate judges. Other buildings are named for local heroes, mayors, ML King Jr (2) and members of the Hawaian nobility.

Twelve Supreme Court Justices have their names on a courthouse:

  • Thurgood Marshall, New York City
  • Warren E. Burger, St. Paul, Minn
  • Robert H. Jackson, Buffalo, NY
  • John Rutledge, Charleston, SC
  • Byron White, Denver, CO
  • John Archibald Campbell, Mobile, Ala
  • Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Richmond, VA
  • Potter Stewart, Cincinnati, OH
  • Sandra Day O'Connor, Phoenix, AZ
  • William O. Douglas, Yakima, WA
  • Hugo Black, Birmingham Ala
  • John McKinley, Florence, Ala

The legislation (HR1019) has been referred to committee, and its future is uncertain.

Dave Sagarin (February 24, 2017)

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