Justice Scalia Speaks

The Supreme Court’s 2013 term begins today with arguments in two cases.  That’s not the news.  New York Magazine has published an in depth interview with Justice Scalia.  Most of the press focuses on his statements about religion and homosexuality.  Salon leads with the headline Scalia: I believe in the Devil.  That part of the conversation isn’t particularly revealing or shocking given that Scalia is a good Catholic.  As he points out in the conversation, even Jesus believed in the Devil.

Slate focuses mostly on Scalia’s attitudes on homosexuality.  Its headline reads Is Scalia in Denial About His Own Homophobia?   Scalia says that he doesn’t hate homosexuality.  He acknowledges that Catholic doctrine teaches that homosexuality is wrong.  The Constitution does not require the people to adopt one view of it or the other.  That is mild compared to the antagonistic statements the Justice has made in other public occasions which are linked in the article.

Here are my favorite parts of the interview:

Let’s put it this way: Do you think the same level of scrutiny that applies to race should apply to sex?

I am not a fan of different levels of scrutiny. Strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, blah blah blah blah. That’s just a thumb on the scales.

But there are some intelligent reasons to treat women differently. I don’t think anybody would deny that. And there really is no, virtually no, intelligent reason to treat people differently on the basis of their skin.


It was recently reported that the justices don’t communicate with one another by e-mail. Do you go online at all? 

Yeah. Sure, I use the Internet.

You’ve got grandkids. Do you feel like the Internet has coarsened our culture at all?

I’m nervous about our civic culture. I’m not sure the Internet is largely the cause of it. It’s certainly the cause of careless writing. People who get used to blurbing things on the Internet are never going to be good writers. And some things I don’t understand about it. For example, I don’t know why anyone would like to be “friended” on the network. I mean, what kind of a narcissistic society is it that ­people want to put out there, This is my life, and this is what I did yesterday? I mean … good grief. Doesn’t that strike you as strange? I think it’s strange.


How picky are you about which law schools they [law clerks] come from?

Well, some law schools are better than others. You think they’re all the same?

Now, other things being equal, which they usually are not, I would like to select somebody from a lesser law school. And I have done that, but really only when I have former clerks on the faculty, whose recommendations I can be utterly confident of. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Chicago, they’re sort of spoiled. It’s nice to get a kid who went to a lesser law school. He’s still got something to prove. But you can’t make a mistake. I mean, one dud will ruin your year.

And for whom does he write opinions:

My tone is sometimes sharp. But I think sharpness is sometimes needed to demonstrate how much of a departure I believe the thing is. Especially in my dissents. Who do you think I write my dissents for?

Law students.

Exactly. And they will read dissents that are breezy and have some thrust to them. That’s who I write for.

We glean other facts.  He admires the new Pope, politics in Washington is a lot more ideological since he came to the bench, and he doesn’t care too much about how history will treat him.  That alter point is the angle in story in The Atlantic.  In other Supreme Court coverage, Slate has an additional story, Elena Kagan Will One Day Control the Supreme Court.  Here’s a sample:

Kagan didn’t just go hunting with Scalia once. She became a hunter. She quipped to the students about shooting a doe after a recent unsuccessful elk-hunting trip in Wyoming—just because there was nothing bigger around to kill. The students went silent. When she was nominated, many Harvard students wanted Kagan to be the Great Liberal Hope who’d do combat with the court’s formidable conservatives. Now she was proclaiming, “I love Justice Scalia!”

Though the Court starts its new term, there is this ominous note at the bottom of the Court’s home page:

The Court will continue to conduct its normal operations through October 11. The Court building will be open to the public during its usual hours, and the Court will hear the scheduled oral arguments.  A further update will be provided in the event the lapse of appropriations continues beyond October 11.

The Court’s term may be affected by the “partial government shut down.”


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