April 9, 2008

Scalia on C-Span.

Video accessible from the C-Span front page. He's talking to students at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, VA.

ADDED: A little simulblogging:

Scalia tells the kids he has 28 grandchildren.

I laughed at about 5:40, at the closeup of two boys reacting to the story of a woman in the 19th century who offered her grandson $5 if he would memorize the Constitution.

He tells them no other country has a term equivalent to "un-American." (Is that true?)

He tells them the Constitution mentions the death penalty "approvingly."

He says that Kelo is "a fragile decision" that will not "stand the test of the ages."

"You can murder anybody in the country and still not violate federal law, if you do it right."

A student asks what thinker has most influenced you, and he's stuck for a moment, then plugs in his tape loop on "The Federalist," then concludes that the answer is: the Framers... "James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall... why don't I just say the Framers?"

Why did Scalia go to law school? He had nothing better to do. He says it again in French: Faute de mieux. Plus, he had an Uncle Vinnie who was a lawyer. And he loves process. And words. And he loves it. You kids should do what you love.

What does he like most about being a Justice? The law! He gets a "kick" out of figuring out "even the most insignificant legal problem." He finds writing "painful" but loves "having written." What does he like least? His first thought is "being a public figure," but he settles on "reviewing cert. petitions." Too many of 'em!

Does the Court have any traditions, like maybe "Movie Night"? "It used to be a tradition to wear these little pill box hats... oh, and... whenever we meet after robing — putting on our little Superman suits — before going out to the bench, we all shake hands with each other."

Why is he opposed to cameras in the courtroom? Most people would watch a 15-second sound bite that would not be characteristic of the oral argument, and he doesn't want to be part of the "miseducation" of the American people.

What was he like in high school? (Good question. Life is high school, right?) "I was something of a greasy grind." President of the Dramatic Society. Played the lead in "MacBeth." Played the French horn in the band. On the junior varsity rifle team. In the Boy Scouts. "Pretty normal childhood, yeah... Middle class, maybe lower middle class — eh, middle class."

When he was a kid, he didn't "aspire" to anything. The "secret" is to "keep your nose to the grindstone." And "a whole lot of luck."

At about 50:35, he impersonates a cop giving the Miranda warnings.

"In my social views, which I do not apply from the bench, I am a fairly conservative fellow."


Simon said...

I didn't think the girl's question about federalism disputes was as incomprehensible as he either found it was or implied that it was in order to avoid answering. Likewise, he kind of avoided the intrastate commerce question; it pretty obviously alluded to Raich, and I thought he missed a good opportunity there to explain the difference between his argument in that case, which is pretty credible, and the court's, on the other hand. But enough armchair quarterbacking.

Trooper York said...

I think down in Jamaica, they have the un-cola. It's kinda the same thing

Ruth Anne Adams said...

His Uncle Vinnie was the lawyer who inspired him? No, no, no. It was his Cousin Vinny.

Simon said...

Ann simulblogged:
"He tells them the Constitution mentions the death penalty approvingly.'"

Which isn't quite true, but near enough. It requires due process before it can be imposed and prevents double jeopardy, both of which presuppose (but do not affirmatively mandate) the authorization of the death penalty.

He's right about Kelo, I think.

What does he like least? ... [H]e settles on 'reviewing cert. petitions.' Too many of 'em!"

It is a flood, to be fair. It's either at, or getting close to, the point (8736) where you can average it to one an hour. A lot of those are going to be frivolous, concededly, but it's still a lot of material, if we really believe him (dubitante) that every Justice reviews every petition, or even if every Justice reads a well-written pool memo.

ricpic said...

He seems, well...human; maybe not everyone's ideal human, but human, not all puffed up about himself; which I imagine must be a considerable temptation for a Supreme Court Justice.

Beth said...

I hope he's right about Kelo, though I don't pretend the legal details in depth. We're seeing frighteningly egregious property actions here in New Orleans now, as recovery continues and developers and contracts are coming out of the woodwork.

The city is using health code violations as a means of knocking down houses that are in some cases actually in the process of being repaired and restored. People have actually come to their home to find it a pile of rubble. There is an agency designed to oversee this process, but they don't hold regular meetings, ignore appeals, and don't respond to any attempts at oversight. It's scary as hell.

Simon said...

"not all puffed up about himself"

Compare Justice Kennedy's Q&A with high schoolers in C-Span's archive. Or any interview with Justice Kennedy, really. Or many of Justice Kennedy's opinions, for that matter.

Simon said...

Beth, I think Kelo is not long for this world for a really simple reason. The next Justice to go is almost certainly from the five not the four, and no matter who wins in the fall, their first appointment to the Supreme Court will be opposed to Kelo. Kelo is one of those interesting cases where judicial conservatism (at least, the kind of judicial conservatism now in vogue) would have led to a liberal result, and legal liberalism led to a result where big corporations can bribe municipalities to knock down the homes of the poor and politically powerless. That's a result that's infirm no matter whether McCain wins and appoints a legal liberal to the court or a democrat wins and appoints a political liberal.

Simon said...

Sorry, freudian slip - I mean, should McCain win and appoint a judicial conservative to the court.

Trumpit said...

"Pretty normal childhood, yeah... Middle class, maybe lower middle class..."

Everything about him still oozes lower middle class. The height of conceit & arrogance doesn't change that one iota. He's a miserable Dickens's character who stumbled and bumbled his way into a cloakroom to don a black robe. An utter disgrace of a human being - another Sgt. Ted sans army fatigues.

Trumpit said...

"In my social views, which I do not apply from the bench, I am a fairly conservative fellow."

Why did he have to add, "which I do not apply from the bench." What a fraud and a fake. The louse doesn't fool me.

Anthony said...

Trumpit --

I am an Italian American who came from a middle class background. My friends and I geenrally were the first generation in their families not living in the Italian, Irish or Jewish ghettos of New York.

Scalia is who he is, and seems very at ease with himself. So what?

As someone who in college and law school and even now often feel ill at ease with my peers (whose parents were all doctors and lawyers and not gumbahs from Brooklyn like my parents were) I really envy him.

Simon said...

Trumpit said...
"Why did he have to add, 'which I do not apply from the bench.'"

It's a necessary caveat when you sit on a nine member court where five members subscribe to the theory that they should in an age when school children are taught that that's what courts should do.

Ralph L said...

It's on CSPAN2 right now. How on earth did they get public school boys to wear coats and ties for a field trip?
Jefferson HS used to be a math & science magnet school in Fairfax Co., not the City of Alexandria. It may have an Alexandria mailing address, however, though I would have thought Annandale.

Samuel Chase said...

Haha. Good one Ralph, when Scalia came to my college I didnt even bother to suit up.

Citizen Alan said...

"In my social views, which I do not apply from the bench, I am a fairly conservative fellow."

If I had been there to hear this live, I'd have started laughing so hard and so hysterically that they'd have had to escort me from the building.

BTW, wrt Kelo, I never have understood how a so-called textualist could possibly disagree with the legal analysis. The Fifth Amendment says that "there shall be no takings without just compensation." Nothing in the Constitution prevents a taking, no matter how stupid or venal the reason, provided that the original owner is justly compensated. It appears to me that while lots of people are justifiably outraged by how the petitioner was treated by the city, the only basis for attacking the legal reasoning is the invention of some new property right that trumps eminent domain that is simply not in the Constitution

Solange said...

Alan, you've misquoted the Fifth Amendment, which actually says: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." The government can't take private property for any ol' "stupid or venal" reason. Private property can only be taken for "public use." Historically this meant taking private property to build a freeway, for example. The question in Kelo was whether taking private property from one individual and giving it to another private individual constitutes a public purpose. As much as I disagree with most of Scalia's written opinions, I think he is absolutely correct that the reasoning in Kelo is weak and won't stand the test of time.

Simon said...

Alan, that's a fairly obtuse thing to say. Ex vi termini, textualists take text seriously, and the takings clause includes the text "for public use." You can argue reasonably and in good faith that "for public use" doesn't impose any (or much of a) qualification or limitation on the purpose of a taking, so long as just compensation is given. But that wasn't your point, and if you honestly don't see why textualists treat that text as a qualification of the takings power, I dare say that you don't really understand textualism.

Micah K said...

On you guys' (and gals') discussion of Kelo:

I think the point of mentioning it in the live blog was to note the irony of discussing Kelo (or any other italicized court case known by a last name) with a bunch of kids. Lighten up.

But what do I know?

Simon said...

"I think the point of mentioning it in the live blog was to note the irony of discussing Kelo (or any other italicized court case known by a last name) with a bunch of kids. ... But what do I know?"

Did you watch the video? He talked about it because he was asked specifically about it by one of the kids. Another kid asked a question quite clearly alluding to Raich, although he didn't mention it by name. Some high school students really do follow this stuff, either because they have a great civics teacher, or (more often) because they've independently developed an interest in it.