Judge-ment Day

Justice Antonin Scalia, discussing the fine points of constitutional law with Bonnie Camden and Mike Crowley, September 16, 1988.

Scalia - Camden - CrowleyJustice Scalia was in town to deliver the annual Taft Lecture. The published version of his speech, “Originalism: the Lesser Evil,” 57 U. Cinn. L. Rev. 849, is now considered something of a landmark in the scholarship of conservative jurisprudence.

At the wine-and-cheese reception in the atrium after the lecture,…

…Justice Scalia stood off to one side with his drink, his Secret Service guy nearby, and basically waited for people to come strike up a conversation with him.  I was shooting photos for The Restatement, so I hung around where he was hanging around and waited for an interesting composition to appear in my viewfinder.

The professors and VIPs weren’t all that eager, as a group, to come over and talk to the judge.  Students were another matter.  Several of the law review writers who’d done casenotes the previous year on decisions where Justice Scalia had written an opinion, and some of the 2Ls who’d been assigned casenotes on Scalia opinions came up and just started chatting with him.

In a couple of cases, the student writer–Andy Hasselbach, for one–had some very pointed critiques of the opinion in question.  Justice Scalia didn’t seem perturbed by this at all; in fact, he seemed to have enjoyed the opportunity to get into a good healthy intellectual debate.  He treated the students as equals and debated the issues on the merits, rather than pulling rank.

Jan Katz, whose views on constitutional law are about as far away from Antonin Scalia as you can get and still be talking about the same political system, wrote up the speech for The Restatement–and give her credit, what she wrote was a masterpiece of “fair and balanced” objectivity.  A few weeks later, she got a handwritten note from Justice Scalia on U.S. Supreme Court stationery, thanking her for what he called “the best press account of one of my speeches I’ve ever seen.”

Whatever else you think of him or his judicial opinions, the man has class, you have to give him that.

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