It appears that some of you are not enamored of this blog's coverage of Harriet Miers. So Article III Groupie is instituting a temporary moratorium on Harriet Miers-related blogging. Here is another post that is unrelated to our SCOTUS nominee.
On September 28, at Harvard Law School, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Stephen G. Breyer participated in a panel discussion on judging, together with several British judges. Blogospheric accounts of the event are available at Magic Cookie and Althouse, among other places, and a partial transcript of the proceedings is available at Ninoville. (Gavel bang: How Appealing.)
"The dignified Ames Courtroom in Austin Hall had the feeling of a rock concert arena, and, as the time for the meeting drew near, I overheard some talk of brandishing cigarette-lighters as though at a rock concert. High drama came over the packed room as Nino took his seat: it was a bit unstable and he almost lost his balance in it."
As it turned out, Justice Scalia wasn't the only one with balance problems:
"Stephen Breyer was leaning so far back in his chair that, from where I was sitting, it looked like he kept disappearing and his head would pop up once in a while."
Even inanimate objects in the room couldn't remain upright, as reflected in this reader's comment about problems with signage:
"The fifth member of the panel, The Right Honorable Lady Arden (great name), wasn't announced, so she must have been a last-minute addition. They accidentally made a much smaller name card for her and had to go print a bigger one. Then that one kept falling off the ledge despite her best efforts to prop it up. Justice Breyer was very gentlemanly and fixed it for her."
Um, excuse me, but the thought of a Supreme Court justice tinkering with some stupid sign is mortifying. Where were Danielle, Kathryn, Jon, and John, when Justice Breyer needed them most?
"[A] friend of mine who couldn't get in reported that she was standing in the hallway when Justice Scalia passed by. Her friend called out, 'Justice Scalia, will you sign my book?' and he graciously stopped and signed. As he walked away, they heard him say, 'It's not easy being a rock star.'"
There were actually several Nino groupies on the Harvard campus that day:
"[W]hile walking from Austin to Hauser for lunch, Scalia, who was chatting with one of the U.K. Law Lords, was approached by an eager young groupie who asked for Scalia's autograph and to have a picture taken with him; Scalia gladly obliged, and the young groupie placed herself next to Scalia and handed her digital camera to one of the Law Lords. The image of one of the titans of the U.K. legal system fumbling with the digital camera in order to take a souvenir photo for one of Scalia's fans is a charming one -- and a testament to the Rock Star's good humor and generosity."*
Speaking of the British judges, in her original request for information, A3G expressed an interest in finding out whether they would show up in wigs. Alas, no. According to UTR's observers, "[a]ll the participants were wearing everyday suits," and nary a wig was in sight:
"Sadly, the British judges only wear wigs during ceremonial events (no details on what those were)."
"Interestingly enough, when the wigs are required, the women [judges] wear them, too."
And what about the substance of the discussion itself? Were there any funny remarks? Well, Justice Scalia participated -- so of course there were!
"The HLS Breyer/Scalia event was certainly enjoyable. Your boy Scalia was in fine form, cracking jokes about the 'problems... er, opportunities with the Supreme Court.' Perhaps his best line came at the end when asked about the use of foreign law. His response: 'If you believe in this lovely living constitution idea, then, sure, use foreign law. Use a Ouija board while you're at it.'"
OUCH -- now that was a bench-slap! Did Justice Breyer have a suitable response?
"Justice Breyer came up with some retort about how Madison read French-influenced books, which was received with much applause (it IS HLS). But I thought it was a relatively lame comeback."
A3G agrees. You are a genius, Justice Breyer, but clearly you're no match for Justice Scalia when it comes to sassy put-downs. So why don't you just go fetch some coffee for him?
Actually, perhaps Justice Breyer should count himself lucky -- Justice Scalia saved even more stinging bench-slaps for colleagues not present:
"At one point, Justice Breyer was discussing the varied backgrounds of the justices, and he pointed out that four of them had been professors: 'me, you (he was talking to Scalia), Ruth, and Tony, Tony Kennedy' -- at which point Scalia interrupted, 'He was an ADJUNCT professor.' SNAP! The room totally cracked up, and Dean Kagan looked taken aback."
Even if Justice Breyer couldn't go toe-to-toe with Justice Scalia in the humor department, Justice Breyer did make a funny (and rather UTR-ish) quip about the Court:
"Justice Breyer explained that the Supreme Court shouldn't take every single case because they think the country needs to hear them talk, even if the issue is settled -- or rather, that 'we don't have the last word because we're brilliant.' He then added, 'We are, of course, brilliant,' which made everyone laugh. So true!"
Yes, so true; federal judges are brilliant. And that's why we love them so much here at Underneath Their Robes!
* Justice Scalia is, by the way, well-known for being gracious and good-humored towards his fans. For example, he autographs items with liberality. Consider this anecdote by Jack Guggenheim:
A few years ago I wrote a law review article [available here, via the Chutzpah blog] on the use of the term "chutzpah" in published opinions (inspired in part by, and paling in comparison to the article by Judge Kozinski) that was published in the Kentucky Law Journal. The linchpin of the article is that Justice Scalia used the the term chutzpah in his opinion in Finley, the first time a Supreme Court Justice did so. (Jewdicious, in a posting by Ronald Coleman, gave a link to my "state of the art" Chutzpah law review article.)
A friend of mine was clerking for Justice Scalia at the time my article was published. He gave a copy of the article to the Justice, who read it and had the good humor to send it back to me signed, "Mazel Tov, Nino."
Pretty cool, huh? Whether you love or hate his views, you can't deny that Justice Scalia is frequently charming and gregarious (as long as you don't get on his bad side, in which case he becomes deliciously bitchy).
Nino loves to laugh; he has a temper; he's unafraid to show emotion. You never lose sight of the fact that Justice Scalia, despite his great legal mind, is a real human being. He's the polar opposite of Justice Souter -- now that guy is a total weirdo! (Or, as Jeffrey Toobin more charitably describes him, an "eccentric.")