Warm Spirits, Cold Logic

It is not your typical Washington dinner party. After dessert at the Scalia home in McLean, Va., guests are often found grouped around an upright piano in the living room. At the bench, banging out old tunes and, in his hearty baritone, leading the crowd of amateur songsters (which often includes such regulars as Justices Rehnquist and O'Connor), is the master of the house, Antonin Scalia, known to friends and family as Nino.

The evenings are evidence of Scalia's engaging sociability, but it is his combination of affability and acumen, of energetic fervor and astringent intellect, that makes him potentially one...

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