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Scalia v. Ginsburg, a musical saga

Reading hundreds and hundreds of pages of casebook  Supreme Court  opinions usually makes law students’ eyes glaze over. But one student read the dramatic written legal interplay between Justice Antonin G. Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and it was music to his ears.

For Derrick Wang, a recent Maryland’s Carey School of Law grad and a musician, it all started with a dissent by Scalia.

“I realized this is the most dramatic thing I’ve ever read in law school … and I started to hear music — a rage aria about the Constitution,” Wang told NPR’s Nina Toenberg. “And then, in the midst of this roiling rhetoric, counterpoint, as Justice Ginsburg’s words appeared to me — a beacon of lyricism with a steely strength and a fervent conviction all their own. And I said to myself, ‘This is an opera.’ ”

That opera, called “Scalia/Ginsburg,” (which Ginsburg revealed in May was in the works) is now complete and will debut in the fall at the University of Maryland, and will be presented next spring at the Washington National Opera. The justices themselves got a sneak preview from Wang last month after the court issued its final decisions of the term.

More here from NPR.

Scalia sticks his footnote in it

We can add another item to the growing list of Justice Antonin G. Scalia’s least favorite things: inexplicable acronyms.

In his opinion yesterday in Arlington v. FCC, Scalia was apparently peeved by the name of the wireless service provider trade group CTIA—The Wireless Association. The justice explains in a footnote:

“This is not a typographical error. CTIA—The Wireless Association was the name of the petitioner. CTIA is presumably an (unpronounceable) acronym, but even the organization’s website does not say what it stands for. That secret, known only to wireless-service-provider insiders, we will not disclose here.”

The organization later took to its Twitter account to politely point out Scalia’s apparent error (and his law clerks’ apparent lack of Google prowess): “CTIA isn’t an acronym. Our registered trademark name is CTIA-The Wireless Association,” the group tweeted, linking to a web page that explained that the letters once stood for the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association. Now, the name is merely an “orphan acronym.”

The whole matter irked Temple Law Prof. David Post, who took to the Volokh Conspiracy to call Scalia’s footnote: “a really embarrassing bit of nonsense — smarmy and snarky and extraordinarily stupid.”

On the WSJ’s Law Blog, Jacob Gershman points out: “Technically, CTIA is an initialism, not an acronym.” So there you have it.



Scalia can see clearly now

There’s been something a little different about Justice Antonin G. Scalia recently. The folks in the Supreme Court’s press gallery have noticed this term that the usually bespectacled justice was appearing at oral arguments sans glasses.

Now, Scalia’s new look has been captured for posterity. The justice sat for a new official photo, and for the first time in recent history he is neither wearing nor holding glasses. (Photo: The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States).

Coming soon: Scalia and Ginsburg, the Opera

Supreme Court buffs who have long followed the drama and unlikely friendship between Justices Antonin G. Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg can take heart: the story is being put to music.

“There is now being written an opera called ‘Scalia-Ginsburg,’” Ginsburg said last week during an appearance at the spring meeting of the American Bar Association Section of International Law in Washington, according to a Federal News Service transcript from the event. (FNS is a sister company to Lawyers USA.)

The justices, who lie on opposite sides of the Court’s ideological spectrum, are close and have been known to travel, ring in the New Year, attend the opera together. Once the justices were even featured in a performance by the Washington National Opera. Soon, it’s their story that will be set to music.

“One of the principal arias is “Meet Giamano Nino,’” Ginsburg said.

And the Funniest Justice is…

During oral arguments Tuesday, Justice Antonin G. Scalia asked why “my choice of marrying whom I want” can’t be considered property.

“I think it’s more properly viewed as a liberty interest,” said Justice Department attorney Sarah E. Harrington. “It’s not a source of economic value in the sort of traditional sense.”

“A lot of people marry for money,” Scalia deadpanned, drawing laughs.

For a while there, it looked like there may be a contest between Justices Scalia and Stephen G. Breyer for the title of Funniest Justice of OT 2012. But in the end, Scalia broke away to easily win and remain undefeated since DC Dicta began keeping tally 6 years ago.

Here are the final standings of the term:

Justice Antonin G. Scalia: 50

Justice Stephen G. Breyer: 40

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.: 16

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: 9

Justice Elena Kagan: 9

Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor: 7

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: 5

Justice Clarence Thomas: 1

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Shushing Sotomayor

Emotions – and tensions – ran high at the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday in a case asking whether a federal tribal law allows a biological father to regain custody of a child who had been legally adopted by a couple under state law.

To say it was a hot bench is an understatement. The justices frequently talked over one another and repeatedly interrupted the lawyers at the podium in an attempt to get their questions answered.

Things got so intense that one of the most vocal justices, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was asked to be quiet by one of her colleagues – twice.

At one point when Sotomayor was rapidly firing questions at attorney Lisa Blatt, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stopped her. “Could I hear her answer please?” Robert said to Sotomayor before allowing Blatt some time to talk.

Later, when Sotomayor interrupted attorney Paul Clement with her queries, Justice Antonin Scalia stopped her mid-sentence.

“Please finish,” Scalia then said to Clement. “Let’s finish.”

The Funniest Justice, week 11: Eating Scalia’s words

During oral arguments Wednesday in Dan’s City Used Cars, Inc. v. Pelkey , Justice Antonin G. Scalia quoted an excerpt of a Supreme Court opinion, then turned to attorney Andre Bouffard to grill him.

“So you want us to eat those words, [say] they were wrong, or somehow you don’t come within them?” Scalia pressed.

“Respectfully, Justice Scalia,” Bouffard answered, “I think those words came from your dissent in that case.”

“Ah,” Scalia said, drawing laughs from the courtroom. “I forgot that.”

We don’t know if Scalia was aware that Justice Stephen G. Breyer was closing in on his lead in the Funniest Justice tally, but this week he was an absolute comedian on the bench, drawing a whopping nine laughs to pad his lead. Breyer showed his funny side once again, gaining four laughs. Here’s the tally after 11 weeks.

Justice Antonin G. Scalia: 43

Justice Stephen G. Breyer: 34

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.: 9

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: 6

Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor: 6

Justice Elena Kagan: 6

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: 3

Justice Clarence Thomas: 1

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 0

The Funniest Justice, week 10: Extra time for laughter

When Paul Clement, the attorney for the respondent in the case American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, wrapped up his oral argument Wednesday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told him: “We’ll afford you some rebuttal time.”

Puzzled, the Clement looked at the chief justice and slowly took his seat. Roberts, realizing his mistake – only the petitioner’s attorney gets rebuttal time – corrected himself: “Oh, no we won’t!”

As the justices and onlookers laughed, Justice Antonin G. Scalia jumped in.

“You should have said, ‘I accept,’ very quickly,” Scalia said to Clement, drawing more laughter.

Scalia found himself in the familiar spot of being the week’s Funniest Justice, making the crowd laugh seven times during arguments this week. But Justice Stephen G. Breyer is still making a contest of it, drawing six laughs to stay within striking distance of his colleague. Here are the current standings:

Justice Antonin G. Scalia: 34

Justice Stephen G. Breyer: 30

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.: 9

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: 6

Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor: 5

Justice Elena Kagan: 5

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: 2

Justice Clarence Thomas: 1

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 0


Scalia skips ‘childish’ presidential speech, gives his own

While six of his colleagues sat front and center for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday, Justice Antonin G. Scalia was across town addressing the Smithsonian Associates at George Washington University.  And he wasn’t exactly sad to be missing the president’s speech.

“It has turned into a childish spectacle, and I don’t think that I want to be there to lend dignity to it,” Scalia said of the president’s annual address, according to USA Today.

But, Scalia said, the timing of his own event was purely coincidental. “The State of the Union is not something I write on my calendar,” Scalia said. “I didn’t set this up tonight just to upstage the president.”