OXON HILL, Md.—Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas scolded the actions of the court on Thursday night in a speech saluting the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Thomas urged attendees of the Federalist Society's annual convention to carry on Scalia's legacy and view Scalia's words—written and spoken—as a prologue in support of originalism. Originalism, a judicial philosophy popularized by Scalia and beloved by right-leaning legal scholars, holds that the Constitution has a static meaning.

"Today it is the view of many that the Supreme Court is the giver of liberties—what an odd conception of governance that We the People are dependent on the third branch of government to grant us our freedom," Thomas said. "With such unchecked judicial power, the court day-by-day, case-by-case, is busy designing the Constitution—as Justice Scalia once quipped—instead of interpreting it."

The Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention drew some 1,700 people for a dinner celebrating Scalia's life, its largest-ever audience for the event. Federalist Society president Eugene Meyer began the event by noting that "Hurricane Trump" hit on Election Day.

Thomas avoided talk of the election, but took the stage saying, "Gene, thank you for that amazing introduction, it makes me want to quit while I'm ahead."

Thomas similarly excluded from his remarks any discussion of the vacancy created by Scalia's death, except to note that "This has been no ordinary year" with the court having begun its term "very sadly" without Scalia.

"Whether we in this room tonight ultimately win or lose the effort to reclaim the forms of government that the Framers intended, it is our duty to stand firm in the defense of the Constitutional principles and structure that secure our liberty," Thomas said. "Like Justice Scalia, we must do what the Constitution obliges us to do. It is now for us, the living, to be dedicated to the unfinished business for which Justice Scalia gave his last full measure of devotion."