Tag Archives: Antonin Scalia

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.

Did Scalia hint at a health care law KO?

As several of the justices of the Supreme Court spent the off week attending events around the country, members of the media asked them obligatory questions about the pending challenge to the federal health care law, which was heard last week.

Justices usually demur when faced with such requests, refusing to make out-of-court statements on pending cases and sticking to other subjects, like antelope hunting.

But Justice Antonin Scalia took an interesting approach to not answering a question about President Barack Obama’s much discussed “judicial activism” comment, according to the AP (via the WSJ’s Law Blog):

“We don’t respond to criticism,” Scalia said in comments to students at the University of Southern Mississippi. “Judges use what’s known as the rope-a-dope trick. It’s judicial tradition.”

What is a “rope-a-dope,” you ask? Law Blog explains that it’s a boxing move used by Muhammad Ali, whereby a boxer leans against the ropes as his opponent pummels away. The shots that are not blocked are absorbed by the rope’s elasticity. Once the opponent is tired, the boxer has conserved enough energy to make a knockout punch.

So did Scalia suggest that he’d take Obama’s shots for now, only to come back with a ruling that knocks out the health care law? Only nine people know for sure – the justices took their initial vote on the case during a closed-door session last Friday.

The Funniest Justice, week 12: Cruel and unusual laughter

Wednesday, the last of three days of oral arguments on the federal health care reform law, Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler urged the Court to sever any portion of the law held unconstitutional from the rest of the statute.

“Mr. Kneedler, what happened to the Eighth Amendment? You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages?”Justice Scalia asked, drawing loud laughter from the packed courtroom.

It was fitting that during such an historic week at the Court, Scalia would garner an unprecedented number of laughs: a whopping 15, easily earning him the title of the Funniest Justice of the week, and all but cementing his fourth consecutive title for the whole term.

There was apparently plenty to laugh at about the health care law and its individual mandate. In addition’s to Scalia’s comedic quips, Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan each earned three laughs, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Sonia Sotomayor each earned one.

With only two weeks to go, here are the standings for the term so far:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 59

Justice Stephen Breyer: 41

Chief Justice John G. Roberts: 25

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 9

Justice Samuel Alito: 5

Justice Elena Kagan: 5

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 2

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

Scalia: Courts flooded with ‘nickel and dime criminal cases’

There are problems with the nation’s federal court system. And according to Justice Antonin Scalia, one of those problems is a flood of petty criminal cases – better suited for state courts – that have turned the U.S. Supreme Court into a “court of criminal appeals.”

Federal courts are clogged with “nickel and dime criminal cases,” Scalia told attendees of an American Bar Association meeting in New Orleans on Saturday, according to the Associated Press. He called the situation “probably regrettable” and added that it doesn’t reflect “what the federal courts were set up for.”

The Funniest Justice, week 8: The great laugh of China

During oral arguments Wednesday in the immigration case Holder v. Gutierrez, Justice Stephen Breyer hypothesized about a legal permanent resident whose non-resident infant child would have to be deported back to their country of origin.

Justice Antonin Scalia interjected.

“But I suppose if they come with somebody else’s 6-month-old child, they would have to send that child back to China, too, wouldn’t they?” Scalia said. “Which would be very sad, but that would be the law, right?”

“Actually they came from Italy, in my hypothetical,” Breyer said to Scalia, drawing laughs from the audience and other justices.

Without missing a beat, Scalia brought it home: “They should not have sent him back to China, then. Why did they do that?”

That exchange helped Scalia get the most laughs – three – this week, making him the week’s Funniest Justice. It also helped him to add a bit of padding to his lead for the term so far. Here are the standings after eight weeks:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 30

Justice Stephen Breyer: 25

Chief Justice John G. Roberts: 12

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 6

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Justice Elena Kagan: 1

Justice Samuel Alito: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 0