Thankfully, no; Justice Antonin Scalia did not take a page from the Karen Finley playbook. Nor did he take his gavel, immerse it in urine, take a photograph, and label the result an artwork entitled "Pissed Judge."
Justice Scalia did, however, address the controversial subject of government funding for the arts in remarks yesterday at the Juilliard School, the renowned school for the arts in New York City. Pat Milton of the Associated Press offers this summary of Justice Scalia's speech (gavel bang: Howard Bashman):
The government can decide what artwork is worthwhile without being accused of censorship as long as it is funding that art, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told an audience Thursday at the Juilliard School.
"The First Amendment has not repealed the ancient rule of life, that he who pays the piper calls the tune," Scalia said.
The justice, who limited his discussion to art issues, said he wasn't suggesting that government stop funding the arts, but that if it does fund artwork, it is entitled to have a say in the content, just like when it runs a school system.
In response to A3G's request for information about this judicial sightation, a UTR reader emailed her the following account (which was so wonderfully detailed and well-written that A3G just "Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V"'d it into the pages of her blog):
I attended the Scalia event earlier today at Juilliard. It was an event on "American Society and the Arts" in honor of Juilliard's centennial. The format was as follows: brief introductory remarks by the Juilliard Prez, a speech by "1776" and "John Adams" author David McCullough, a speech by Scalia on "the law and the arts," and then a conversation between [composer] Stephen Sondheim and singer Renee Fleming moderated by Juilliard's prez.
All four speakers then sat together in a panel, and took a few questions that had been submitted by the audience. Interesting factoid: Scalia and Sondheim both seemed to agree that the political shift to the right in the U.S. hasn't had any appreciable effect on art.
The other panelists cited lack of arts funding in education as a big social problem; Scalia mainly cited the failure of parents to take an interest in their children's education generally as a problem, which Fleming agreed was troublesome.
Scalia was witty as usual, and acknowledged himself that he was somewhat out of place in the lineup. Quoting from memory: "The line-up for this event is like a bizarre I.Q. test. Which doesn't belong: Diva, composer, author...lawyer?" [A3G aside: While she agrees with the basic point that Justice Scalia might have been a little out of place, as PG also observed, A3G would note for the record that AS is not just a lawyer, but also an author and judicial divo extraordinaire.]
[Justice Scalia] spoke about law as a profession "entirely ancillary" to the arts (and to the rest of society as well), which enables the arts through the protection of intellectual property, e.g., through copyright. He also spoke about the importance of free speech to the arts, and how he is "not a strict constructionist" when it comes to defining "speech," which he considers to be any communicative act (e.g., flag burning, an upraised fist, etc). He spoke about government funding of arts, defending the ability of the government to pick and choose what kind of art it will fund under the spending power: "He who pays the piper calls the tune." He came out for the position that pornography/nudity should not necessarily be constitutionally protected or forbidden, but up to local communities to regulate.
As a matter of fact, Scalia didn't sit next to Sondheim (he sat between Fleming and Juilliard's prez during the panel, although I don't believe he requested that arrangement). [A3G previously wondered whether Nino might ask not to sit next to the openly gay Sondheim, citing "cooties avoidance" concerns.]
[Scalia and Sondheim] were only on stage together during the final panel. They did have an interesting back-and-forth on the question of what is art vs. what is entertainment. Sondheim seemed to think art is something that stands the test of time, to which Scalia replied "I'm sorry, Abbott and Costello's 'Who's on First' will last a long time. But it will never be art." Sondheim didn't think it would last a long time. The two then conducted an impromptu poll of the audience to see who under 30 actually knew what "Who's on First" was. Watching Sondheim and Scalia argue about Abbott and Costello... Bizarre!
Afterwards, like any good Article III groupie, I thought I might be able to get a picture with Scalia or at least his autograph, but he was quickly whisked out the back into a waiting car with U.S. government plates. It was still a privilege just to hear him speak.
Spectacular! A3G thanks her correspondent for this awesome sightation of "the Rock Star of One First Street," who earned that UTR moniker for being the most charismatic, colorful, and controversial member of the Court. After all, how many SCOTUS justices can make it into a New York newspaper gossip column (last item)?
(Update: There is a mini-debate going on in comments over at the Volokh Conspiracy concerning Justice Scalia's remarks at Juilliard.)
For those of you who haven't gotten enough of Justice Scalia, check out these fun pictures of the Justice, on a recent visit to Chapman University School of Law. Look at how Nino pals about with his adoring fans, and how he vamps and mugs for the camera; he's a natural!
Might Justice Scalia fill the void left by that cokehead, Kate Moss? The exceedingly lucrative Burberry and Chanel contracts are now up for grabs, and they've got to be awfully tempting to Nino -- who probably owns a Burberry scarf or two, and who has publicly complained about the "arbitrary limitation" on "all outside income earned by judges." Stay tuned...