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Antonin Scalia

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.



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.

Scalia draws parallels – and media attention

Justice Antonin G. Scalia is drawing a lot of media attention for comments he made this week as the Supreme Court prepares to hear two same-sex marriage law challenges.

During an appearance at Princeton University Monday, Scalia was asked by a gay student why he compares laws barring sodomy to those barring bestiality.

Scalia replied that he has drawn parallels, not comparisons, to make a point. “I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective,” Scalia said according to several news organizations including CBS News. “It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the ‘reduction to the absurd. If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

The comments are drawing wide attention as they come just days after the Court agreed to consider the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act as well as California’s voter-instituted law barring recognition of same-sex marriage in that state.

The Funniest Justice, week 5: Humorous error

During oral arguments Wednesday in Henderson v. U.S., Justice Department attorney Jeffrey B. Wall cited Supreme Court precedent to make his case that plain error criminal appeals must be based on the law at the time of sentencing.

Johnson [v. U.S.] did nothing, either as a matter of its holding or its rationale, to say what the rule requires more generally in cases like this one, where a contemporaneous objection could have been ‘helpful to the district court,’” Wall argued.

Justice Antonin G. Scalia wasn’t persuaded.

“I joined Johnson, and maybe I have to repudiate it if it leads to that conclusion,” Scalia said.

“Justice Scalia, you did not join the relevant portion of Johnson,” Wall said.

“Oh, I didn’t?” Scalia said. “Thank God! It didn’t sound like me.”

That comment earned Scalia one of his four laughs of the week, making him this week’s funniest justice, and solidifying his lead on the term-long tally of courtroom chuckles. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. also made a funny this week.

Here is the tally for the term so far:

Justice Antonin G. Scalia: 10

Justice Stephen G. Breyer: 5

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.: 4

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: 3

Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor: 3

Justice Elena Kagan: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 0

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: 0

Scalia’s least favorite things

We can now add to the growing list of things that annoy Justice Antonin G. Scalia.

We already knew Scalia’s not too keen on renowned federal judges criticizing the justice’s work.  He hates it when lawyers arguing before the Supreme Court cite statutes without including the text of the law in their briefs. Accusing the justices of having partisan motives is sure to ruffle Scalia’s feathers as well.

Now, we know that grammatically-challenged flight attendants peeve the Court’s most senior associate justice as well. Speaking this weekend at the Federalist Society, Scalia complained of “the illiterates who communicate with the public” on airlines, according to the WSJ’s Law Blog. Scalia referred to a recent flight where the attendant announced that it was “required that your luggage is under the seat in front of you.” The “is” should have been “be,” according to the justice.

Kagan and Scalia go hunting

Justice Antonin G. Scalia and Justice Elena Kagan are officially hunting buddies.

The two justices of the U.S. Supreme Court spent Saturday hunting together in Wyoming according to Kagan, who talked about their plans while speaking Friday at an event at the University of Tennessee, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Kagan, who has been target shooting with Scalia several times, told the crowd that last spring Scalia proclaimed: “It’s time to move on to the big game.”

“I’m hoping to bag myself an antelope,” she said Friday.


A ticket for Scalia

He may be the most senior associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, but Justice Antonin G. Scalia is not above the law.

Scalia, who was in Philadelphia Monday attending an event at Union League – the tony private club depicted in the classic Eddie Murphy film “Trading Places” – was reminded of that fact that when he returned to his car to find a parking ticket.

Despite the police business parking Packard displayed on his dash, Scalia was apparently cited for parking in a loading zone, according to the National Constitution Center’s blog. But one this is certain: the ticket was not part of a partisan conspiracy. The Center jokes in its blog post that the city’s Parking Authority is on of the few GOP-controlled agencies in the mostly Democratic city government.

It’s also worth noting that the city’s parking officials do not fool around – they are famous for being the stars of the television show “Parking Wars” for five years, the blog notes.

Scalia gently jabs Posner in talk on history, the Constitution and public perception (access required)

Justice Antonin G. Scalia has thrown sharp barbs at 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner in their ongoing public spat about the role of history in legal interpretation. But last week he took a softer approach in mocking the now infamous review Posner wrote of Scalia’s latest book.

As you recall, Posner questioned the wisdom of basing legal interpretations on merely text and history in his critical review in The New Republic of the book “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,” which Scalia authored with Bryan Garner. The review has led to some public bickering – via media outlets – between the esteemed jurists. In one interview, Scalia went so far as to say Posner lied in asserting that Scalia relied on legislative history in his opinion in the Second Amendment case DC v. Heller. Posner responded with a two-page letter to Reuters defending his claim.

But at event last week in Washington  hosted by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Scalia took a more gentle approach in keeping the public feud going. Read More »

First day, first laughs

After just one day of oral arguments in the Supreme Court’s new term, a justice is already on the board in our tally of the term’s Funniest Justice.

Just to recap, DC Dicta keeps a weekly count of how many times the justices of the Court get a laugh out of the crowd during oral arguments, as demonstrated on the Court’s transcripts.

The first to score? Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who got two laughs during yesterday’s argument in Lozman v. Riviera Beach.

Can he hold on to defeat three-time champion Justice Antonin G. Scalia? And as an added bonus, who will be the funniest oral advocate this year? Check back with DC Dicta each week through the end of the term to find out!