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Scalia and Garner, political odd couple

Law professor Bryan Garner may have written two books with Justice Antonin G. Scalia. But politically the two don’t always see eye-to-eye, Garner said.

“I will tell you that my political beliefs are different from those of Justice Scalia,” Garner said in an appearance with the Supreme Court’s most senior associate justice Monday at Southern Methodist University, where Garner teaches.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Garner said he supports gay marriage and stricter gun laws. Scalia, for his part, replied to Garner: “I haven’t expressed my views of either of those. You’re a bleeding heart.”

But, Garner said, the two legal scholars put their political differences aside and focus on their shared commitment to legal interpretation when writing their books, Garner said.

Scalia wrote the opinion in the landmark Second Amendment case D.C. v. Heller, and the justices will take up two same-sex marriage cases later this term. But Scalia said at the event Monday that his personal views don’t always line up with his legal opinions. “The judge who always likes the results he reaches is a bad judge,” Scalia said.



School closing leaves Sotomayor ‘heartbroken’

School-aged Sotomayor

As Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor tours the country to promote her new autobiography, which recounts her humble upbringing in the Bronx, she’s also mourning the closing of her childhood school.

The Blessed Sacrament School, one of several Catholic schools scheduled to be shuttered for budgetary reasons, was a haven for budding Supreme Court justice, Sotomayor told the New York Times.

“I’m heartbroken,” Sotomayor said about the closing. “You know how important those eight years were? It’s symbolic of what it means for all our families, like my mother, who were dirt-poor. She watched what happened to my cousins in public school and worried if we went there, we might not get out. So she scrimped and saved. It was a road of opportunity for kids with no other alternative.”

Chief birthday

If wisdom comes with age, then the chief justice of the United States became a little wiser this week.

On Sunday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. celebrated his 58th birthday.

Breyer: Court’s no ‘junior varsity Congress’

Justice Stephen G. Breyer knows many people think of the Supreme Court as a “junior varsity Congress,” but that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind, he said.

In a lecture yesterday at Boston University School of Law (DC Dicta’s alma mater, by the way), according to BU Today Breyer said the Founding Fathers, to place a check on the president’s broad executive power, created congressional lawmakers who “are very safe to rely on when something’s popular,” and judges who “do not have the power of the purse, and they do not have the power of the sword. Wonderful.”

Besides, Breyer said according to the AP:  “judges make terrible politicians.”

See the video of Breyer’s lecture here on BU’s website.

Mystery solved: What Thomas actually said

Brace yourselves: The simmering mystery over the words Justice Clarence Thomas used to break his nearly seven-year silence during oral arguments has been solved!

The U.S. Supreme Court has published the final – and revised – transcript from oral arguments in the ineffective assistance case Boyer v. Louisiana revealing the joke Thomas cracked in response to Justice Antonin G. Scalia’s observation that the defendant’s attorneys went to Harvard and Yale law schools.

“Well, there – see, he did not provide good counsel,” Thomas replied, drawing laughter from his colleagues.


Sotomayor’s fitness tip

Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor, in the middle of a media blitz and tour to promote her new autobiography, hasn’t limited her interview topics to her tough upbringing and legal career. Speaking at an event in New York this week, the Supreme Court justice was also giving out fitness tips.

“As Latinos, we do a lot of salsa, and that’s healthy,” Sotomayor said, according to the Huffington Post.  She even pointed to fitness trends such as the Latin dance-inspired zumba as proof. “What do you think they’re doing in the gyms right now?” she asked. “They’re doing salsa!”

Scalia’s ‘weird hat’ steals show at inauguration

Four years ago, singer Aretha Franklin’s hat was a surprise star at President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony. But this year, the media and Twitterverse were mesmerized by another headpiece: the skullcap of Justice Antonin G. Scalia.

The peaked hat was lampooned on the internet. The New York Daily News described it as “a velvety cap that looked like a beret on steroids.” Folks on Twitter called it everything from a “Vatican Palace Guard’s hat” to a headpiece of a “mad medieval monk.” Even Sen. Claire McCaskill got in on the ribbing, Tweeting pictures (like the one above) of Scalia with snarky comments and the hashtag #Scaliaweirdhat. (To be fair, the senator also goofed on “Breyer’s scaliawannabe hat, Kennedy’s stocking cap” and “Alito in the shades.”)

But it turns out that Scalia’s outfit choice was grounded in tradition. The National Law Journal’s Tony Mauro notes that the black cornered skullcaps have been worn by justices at cold-weather outdoor events for decades, though they’ve fallen in and out of favor over the years. Scalia apparently takes his history quite seriously: law professor Kevin C. Walsh explains that the item Scalia wore yesterday was a custom-made replica of the hat depicted in a famous portrait of St. Thomas More, and was a gift to the justice from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond.

Roberts and Sotomayor deliver, Obama flubs slightly

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered the oath of office to President Barack Obama this past inaugural weekend – twice – before a national audience. And this time, unlike in 2009, he did it without incident.

The Supreme Court chief, known for his memorization skills as an appellate advocate, famously flubbed the oath the first time he swore in Obama four years ago. This weekend – both in the private official swearing in ceremony at the White House on Sunday and then again on the steps of the Capitol building on Monday – Roberts played it safe by reading the 35-word oath from a cue card.

Still, the pressure got to Obama: he stumbled over the word “States.” But he’s still the president.

Sonia Sotomayor administered the much longer oath of office to President Biden twice – once in a private ceremony at the Naval Observatory, then again at Monday’s Capitol affair – over  the long weekend as well, making her first Hispanic justice to do so.

Learn more about the justices – including the reason why Sotomayor’s robe looks different than those of her eight colleagues – on our Supreme Court Report.

Roberts gives the oath again – and again and again…

By Monday afternoon, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. should know the presidential oath of office by heart; he will have recited it enough.

Four times, to be exact – although he famously twisted some words the first time he swore President Barack Obama into office, prompting a redo the next day. Roberts officially swears in Obama for his second term in a private ceremony on Sunday, and will repeat the process the next day during the public inauguration ceremony at the Capitol building.

The Funniest Justice, week 8: Breaking silence with laughter

History has been made: For the first time since DC Dicta began counting the laughs at oral arguments, Justice Clarence Thomas is on the board! The usually silent justice made a funny – if unintelligible – comment Monday, lifting him from the last-place spot he’s occupied in our tally since it began six years ago.

(Not to be outdone, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. also earned his first laugh of the term during the same argument, leaving Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the only justice yet to show a funny side).

Here are the stats after eight weeks of arguments:

Justice Antonin G. Scalia: 25

Justice Stephen G. Breyer: 19

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.: 7

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: 6

Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor: 4

Justice Elena Kagan: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 1

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: 1

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 0