I initially wanted to hold off on posting this article in order to not inundate the blog with Justice Scalia posts back-to-back (see Abercrombie case) but I got to thinking—Could there ever be too much Scalia? I don’t think so.
Regardless of whether you agree with his decisions or not, it is simply indisputable that Justice Scalia is a genius and, quite frankly, incredibly entertaining. I had the opportunity to hear him speak a couple weeks ago when he was in Phoenix, and thought I would pass along some gems* from the event:
First, the seriously-let’s-get-some-perspective part of the event. Scalia started off the luncheon by discussing what makes us the free-ist (is that a word? I think I just made it one) country in the world. You know, just another ice-breaker that deals with the heart and soul of our democracy. You might be thinking it’s the Bill of Rights but, not the case, said Justice Scalia. The Bill of Rights is just words on paper. Meaningless. What prevents the centralization of power is actually gridlock. That is the source of liberties. Only good legislation with solid support will get through.
Justice Scalia also reminded the audience not to over-estimate the importance of his court. Federal law is a small part of the laws that govern our society. Murder – that’s a state crime (unless it goes haywire and crosses state borders, I guess). There are state laws of contract. Automobile accidents. That’s state law. Family court. It’s all state law. Scalia reminded the audience that the most important court should be our State Supreme Court.
Don’t exaggerate the value of my court in your life.
Soon, we transitioned to the audience Q&A portion of the luncheon. When asked about his “favorite dissent” Justice Scalia provided the light-hearted sentiment that “the most important element of a good dissent is a really stupid majority.” The example he gave was, ironically, a case that I had sitting on my desk–PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin. His dissent is actually a good read – if you haven’t read it, read it here. And you, too, can feel the weight of “the solemn duty of the Supreme Court of the United States, laid upon it by Congress in pursuance of the Federal Government’s power ‘[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States,’ U.S. Const., Art. I, §8, cl. 3, to decide What Is Golf.”
Justice Scalia pointed out that he is not a strict textualist. And he recommends that everyone read The Federalist Papers.
Scalia commented that international law has no relevance to the American constitution. Basically if you think your job is to think about what should the world be, then international law might have relevance, he commented.
Law schools. They are a frequent hot topic discussion point of what is great and what can be improved in this world—depending on who you ask. He said that he does not think that law schools should be reduced from three to two years. Scalia thinks that we need to cut out the courses like “Law on Marbles” (I would love to know what would be taught in that course) and make sure the curriculum is designed to train lawyers.
My favorite quote of the day? I don’t even feel the need to explain it.
More damage has been done by stupidity than [good by] benevolence over mankind.
Some closing remarks are that it is not the job for the judge to write the law. (Spoiler alert: Justice Scalia believes that’s Congress’s job). Justice Scalia commented that sometimes he has to produce “awful” results. “If given a stupid statute, then I am bound by oath to produce a stupid result.” He also reminded the crowd that questions during oral argument are opportunity and not an interruption. “For skillful counsel, a cold bench is terrible.”
And, for those who know me well–YES, I got my copy of Justice Scalia’s book autographed and added it to my Supreme Court Justice Collection. Send me a message if you hear of any other Justices coming to Phoenix…
*Full disclosure. I wrote my notes as fast as my hand can write, but I have poor handwriting and, actually, don’t often use primitive tools like pens and paper anymore. Combine that *obstacle* with the fact that I was also trying to eat my Ritz Carlton lunch while listening to the Justice–and herein lies my problem. There were a lot of amazing discussion points that I just couldn’t cover here.