Wednesday, September 29, 2004
On this day:

Clone Scalia

One of the best things Ronald Reagan ever did as President was to nominate Antonin Scalia to the U.S. Supreme Court. This article in the Harvard Crimson shows why. Here are the portions that best illustrate why his legal mind and his wit are unsurpassed on today's Court:

The Supreme Court’s recent decisions protecting abortion rights, upholding the legalization of assisted suicide and striking down anti-sodomy laws represent a 'dangerous' trend, Justice Antonin Scalia told a Harvard audience last night.

A "dangerous trend" because it usurps the authority of the states and gives judges free reign to impose their own moral views over those of constitutional majorities.

In a freewheeling question-and-answer session following the justice’s prepared remarks, an African-American graduate student challenged Scalia to defend the constitutionality of racial profiling.

The Kennedy School student, Larry Harris Jr., said that his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights had been violated when he was pulled over in Cambridge for—as he put it—driving while black.”

Scalia was less convinced.

“What the Fourth Amendment prohibits is ‘unnecessary’ search and seizure,” the justice said. “Is it racial profiling prohibited by the Fourth Amendment for the police to go looking for a white man with blue eyes? Do you want to stop little old ladies with tennis shoes?”

The eccentric justice launched into a parody of a police radio dispatch under a scenario in which profiling were prohibited. “The suspect is 5’10, we know what he looks like, but we can’t tell you,” Scalia quipped—drawing laughter from the audience.

Harris was less amused. He said afterwards that “the flippancy with which [Scalia] dealt with the question was insensitive. It shows that on issues like this, he might be a little out of touch.”.

I guess Justice Scalia hasn't attended mandatory sensitivity training lately.

Earlier in the evening, Scalia ridiculed the European Court of Human Rights’ 2000 decision striking down British legislation that bars group gay sex on the grounds that the law intruded upon private life.

He asked—rhetorically—how many individuals would have to be involved in a sex act for it to no longer qualify as “private.”

“Presumably it is some number between five and the number of people required to fill the Coliseum,” Scalia joked.”

Scalia recognizes that Britain's unwritten constitution is a much more important guarantor of liberty than the make-it-up-as-they-go jurisprudence being imposed by Euroweenie busybodies.

An audience member later rose to ask Scalia “whether you have any gay friends, and—if not—whether you’d like to be my friend.”

“I probably do have some gay friends,” Scalia said. “I’ve never pressed the point.”

But Scalia said his personal views on social issues have no bearing on his courtroom decisions.

“I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged,” Scalia said.

“But it is blindingly clear that judges have no greater capacity than the rest of us to decide what is moral.”

In addition to lacking the capacity to decide what is moral, judges also lack the constitutional authority, as Scalia's opinions through the years have clearly stated.

Dunster House resident Zachary D. Liscow ’05 rose during the question-and-answer session to suggest that Scalia’s own vote in the controversial 2000 presidential election case could be viewed as an example of the “judicial activism” Scalia deplores.

“I do not mean by [‘judicial activism’] judges actively doing what they’re supposed to do,” Scalia responded. He said the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to order a recount in Miami-Dade County—a decision Scalia and his colleagues overruled—amounted to a “clear violation of the federal constitution.”

This was a great response to those who have accused Justice Scalia of participating in "conservative activism."

In one of the more bizarre moments of the evening, Scalia mentioned—in passing—that he thought the 17th Amendment was “a bad idea.”

The 17th Amendment provides for the direct election of senators.

I'm not sure why the Crimson reporter found this so bizarre. The 17th Amendment was possibly the most foolhardy addition ever made to the constitution. Recently, Senator Zell Miller (D., Ga) endorsed its repeal, and others have pointed out how it has led to a "sharp rise in the size and power of the federal government."

Let's hope Justice Scalia hangs around for many more years.