mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Scalia’s Boring Legacy”: He Simply Became A Reliable Tool Of Retrograde Social Conservative Orthodoxy And Corporate Power

I was determined yesterday not to comment on Justice Antonin Scalia’s legacy on the Supreme Court, choosing to focus instead on the political implications of the vacancy. I remain committed to that, in large part because the man only barely passed away and I feel that anything I might say about his impact on law, culture and jurisprudence would be tinged with inappropriate (?) negative passion I might later regret.

Fortunately, I don’t have to. Back in 2014 here at Washington Monthly, Michael O’Donnell wrote a fantastic book review of Bruce Allen Murphy’s “Scalia: A Court of One,” that says most of it for me:

Somewhere in the mid-2000s, Scalia ceased to be a powerhouse jurist and became a crank. He began thumbing his nose at the ethical conventions that guide justices, giving provocative speeches about matters likely to come before the Court. He declined to recuse himself from cases where he had consorted with one of the parties—including, famously, Vice President Dick Cheney. He turned up the invective in his decisions. His colleagues’ reasoning ceased to be merely unpersuasive; it was “preposterous,” “at war with reason,” “not merely naive, but absurd,” “patently incorrect,” and “transparently false.” More and more, he seemed willing to bend his own rules to achieve conservative results in areas of concern to social conservatives, like affirmative action, gay rights, abortion, gun ownership, and the death penalty. Above all, Scalia stopped trying to persuade others. He became the judicial equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, who has made a career of preaching to the choir. But Limbaugh is not merely a shock jock; he is also a kingmaker. Scalia’s position on the bench precludes any such influence. As a result, he has more fans than power.

The conservative movement is trying to treat Scalia as a giant of law and one of America’s greatest and most influential jurists. I’m not so sure about that. His position on the court and his votes in some crucial 5-4 decisions have obviously made a gigantic impact, but it’s not at all clear that his arguments will have had generations-long precedent-carrying weight. Particularly toward the end of his career he simply became a reliable tool of retrograde social conservative orthodoxy and corporate power. Scalia ceased to be interesting because you always knew exactly where he would stand, and that every year he would say something eyebrow-raisingly nasty and clueless about evolution, the sexual revolution or some similar topic. In that sense, I would argue that John Roberts has actually been more interesting and influential recently because one can at least speculate on potentially unconventional arguments and stances he might take.

In the end, what many characterized as Scalia’s incisive wit and questioning simply became boring, because it was always in the service of the same agenda, rendering it devoid of truly honest insight. Scalia simply became as boring as your conservative uncle at Thanksgiving. As O’Donnell says:

Scalia’s fall has been loud and it has been public. He is the Court’s most outspoken and quotable justice, and whether he is flicking his chin at reporters or standing at the lectern attacking secular values, he makes headlines. So when he was passed over for the position of chief justice in 2005, the legal world noticed. President George W. Bush had cited Scalia as well as Clarence Thomas when asked as a candidate to name justices he admired. Yet when Rehnquist suddenly died, Bush did not seriously consider elevating Scalia. “Nino” had rarely demonstrated leadership in assembling or holding together majorities; he had alienated every one of his colleagues at one point or other. His flamboyant antics off the bench might compromise the dignity of the office of chief justice. He would be the devil to confirm. Bush nominated instead John Roberts, an equally brilliant but far more disciplined judge, and one who was better suited to the responsibilities of leadership. After that, Scalia stopped playing nice and started using real buckshot.

I understand and can sympathize with how upset conservatives are about their loss and about the potential for the shifting of the ideology of the court. But let’s not pretend that the court lost a legal giant on the level of Brandeis, Holmes or Marshall. It didn’t.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 14, 2016

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Antonin Scalia, Conservatism, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Racist And Offensive”: Scalia Makes Racially Charged Argument In Affirmative-Action Case

About a month ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke to first-year law students at Georgetown, where he drew a parallel between gay people, pedophiles, and child abusers. What would he do for an encore?

This morning, the high court heard oral arguments in a Texas case on affirmative action and the use of race in college admissions, and NBC News reported that Scalia “questioned whether some minority students are harmed by the policy because it helped them gain admittance to schools where they might not be able to academically compete.”

At first blush, that sounds pretty racist, so let’s check the official transcript:

“There are – there are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to ­­ to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less­-advanced school, a less – a slower-track school where they do well.

“One of – one of the briefs pointed out that – that most of the – most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re – that they’re being pushed ahead in – in classes that are too ­­ too fast for them.”

If we were to go out of our way to be charitable, I suppose we could emphasize the fact that Scalia prefaced these comments by saying “there are those who contend.” In other words, maybe the far-right justice himself isn’t making such an ugly argument, so much as the justice is referencing an offensive argument from unnamed others?

It is, to be sure, a stretch. At no point did Scalia say he disagrees with “those who contend” that African-American students who struggle at good universities and are better off at “a slower-track school.”

David Plouffe, a former aide to President Obama, highlighted Scalia’s quote this afternoon and asked a pertinent question: “Motivation lacking for 2016?”

As for the case itself, Fisher v. Texas, which has been bouncing around for a long while, MSNBC’s Irin Carmon reported that the dispute stems from a complaint filed by Abigail Fisher, a white woman “who claims she was denied admission to the University of Texas because of her race, despite the fact that a lower court found she wouldn’t have been admitted regardless of her race.”

And how did oral arguments go? Carmon added:

The liberals worked to poke holes in the argument that Texas cannot put race on the list of holistic factors. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the same point she had made the first time Fisher came to the court, which is that the supposedly “race-neutral” process of admitting the top 10 percent, which isn’t being challenged in this case, isn’t race-neutral at all, because it makes virtue out of a long history of school and housing segregation and discrimination. Justice Elena Kagan didn’t say a word, because she has recused herself, having worked on the case as solicitor general. Justice Sonia Sotomayor fiercely challenged Fisher’s attorneys.

Meanwhile, three of the four most conservative members of the court reiterated that they oppose affirmative action and would overturn the court’s precedent that it is allowed as a last resort to promote educational diversity. Chief Justice John Roberts repeatedly asked when remedies to racial discrimination would no longer be needed. (Judging from his past decisions, he believes the time is now.) Justice Samuel Alito tried to argue that advocates for affirmative action are themselves making racist or condescending judgments.

A decision is expected by June.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 10, 2015

December 11, 2015 Posted by | Affirmative Action, African Americans, Antonin Scalia, Racism | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Why Scalia Should Resign”: It Must Make Him Wonder If He Wishes To Be Part Of An Institution That Is Corrupting The Republic

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia should resign.

That’s the thought I had while reading his acid dissents in the two headline-grabbing Supreme Court cases last week, one affirming the IRS’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act, and the other discovering a right to same-sex marriage in the 14th Amendment.

Scalia’s considered view is that the court has usurped power from Congress in the health care law, and from the American people themselves in the marriage case.

Ultimately, on the health care case, John Roberts agreed with most of the claims of the plaintiffs, but decided to rewrite the disputed clause because, as he writes, “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.” Scalia retorted that the court’s job is to pronounce the laws, not re-shape them to better fit what the court imagines the intent of the legislators to have been. Scalia writes, “the court forgets that ours is a government of laws and not of men. That means we are governed by the terms of our laws, not by the unenacted will of our lawmaker.”

He continues:

The court’s decision reflects the philosophy that judges should endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes in order to correct a supposed flaw in the statutory machinery. That philosophy ignores the American people’s decision to give Congress “[a]ll legislative Powers”enumerated in the Constitution. Art. I, §1. They made Congress, not this court, responsible for both making laws and mending them. This court holds only the judicial power — the power to pronounce the law as Congress has enacted it. We lack the prerogative to repair laws that do not work out in practice, just as the people lack the ability to throw us out of office if they dislike the solutions we concoct. We must always remember, therefore, that “[o]ur task is to apply the text, not to improve upon it. [King v. Burwell]

So the court has thus transgressed the balance of powers, becoming a kind of reserve super-legislature. But his dissent on Friday against Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion legalizing same-sex marriage takes the charge much further. According to Scalia, the court has given into nonsense, and now transgresses the right of the American people themselves. “The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie,” he jeers.

Scalia’s baseline assumption is that the meaning of the 14th Amendment did not change since 1868. And further that it is the prerogative of the American people, through their legislators or through constitutional amendment, to redefine marriage as an institution that includes two people regardless of their sex, a process that was well on its way. And so the Kennedy decision becomes for Scalia a “judicial putsch,” where five judges “have discovered in the 14th Amendment a ‘fundamental right’ overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.” Instead of law, Scalia says, the court has given “pop philosophy” and “showy profundities” that are “profoundly incoherent.”

Scalia has often denounced majority holdings in extraordinarily memorable language. But what he offers in his two dissents at the end of this term are much graver charges. The ruling in King further infantilizes Congress, releasing it from its responsibility to craft laws with any precision, thus weakening the ability of the people to govern themselves through the legislature. And the marriage ruling more directly asserts a judicial supremacy over the people themselves. What Scalia is saying is that the court has corrupted the American form of government and staged a coup.

If these are anything more than rhetorical flashes, then it must make him wonder if he wishes to be a part of an institution that is this corrupted and corrupting of the republic. He may steel himself, as someone who will dutifully carry out his appointed role. But waiting for a Republican president to replace him is a guarantee of nothing. The two opinions that amount to a putsch were written by justices appointed by the two most conservative Republican presidents in living memory.

Progressives would be so giddy at his departure. So what? If the court is captured by politics, what better rebuke than to demonstrate that one justice is not so captured. Leaving the court would not relieve its members of the duty of upholding the Constitution. Let the burden and the obloquy of the putsch be on others.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, June 29, 2015

July 4, 2015 Posted by | Antonin Scalia, King v Burwell, Obergefell v Hodges | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Antonin Scalia Defeated — By Antonin Scalia”: He Had His Own Previous Arguments Turned Against Him

Justice Antonin Scalia did not simply lose today’s key ruling on the federal health insurance subsidies for the Affordable Care Act — he had his own previous arguments turned against him.

The majority opinion issued today, written principally by Chief Justice John Roberts — whose crucial vote previously upheld Obamacare back in 2012 — illustrated the idea of the insurance subsidies being an integral part of health care reform itself.

And the absurdity of just striking out subsidies for people living in states with federally run exchanges — as Scalia and his fellow dissenters insisted had to be done under the law — was illustrated by citing… Antonin Scalia, from his earlier efforts to stamp out health care reform.

It is implausible that Congress meant the Act to operate in this manner. See National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 […] (SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., dissenting) […] (“Without the federal subsidies . . . the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and may not operate at all.”).

That is, Roberts and company cited the dissent in the first major Obamacare case, from 2012, when the dissenters — Scalia being one of them — tried to say that pretty much each every single facet of the Affordable Care Act was not only wrong but unconstitutional, and that they interlocked so completely that by striking down even one of them, the entire Act would have to fall.

As a political staffer friend, who is a trained lawyer (though not currently practicing), tells me: “The problem with results-oriented jurisprudence is it makes hypocrisy easy to spot.”

The full paragraph in that original dissent is as follows:

In the absence of federal subsidies to purchasers, insurance companies will have little incentive to sell insurance on the exchanges. Under the ACA’s scheme, few, if any, individuals would want to buy individual insurance policies outside of an exchange, because federal subsidies would be unavailable outside of an exchange. Difficulty in attracting individuals outside of the exchange would in turn motivate insurers to enter exchanges, despite the exchanges’ onerous regulations. […] That system of incentives collapses if the federal subsidies are invalidated. Without the federal subsidies, individuals would lose the main incentive to purchase insurance inside the exchanges, and some insurers may be unwilling to offer insurance inside of exchanges. With fewer buyers and even fewer sellers, the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and may not operate at all.

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, June 25, 2015

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Antonin Scalia, King v Burwell | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Antonin Scalia’s ‘Interpretive Jiggery-Pokery'”: With Increasing Frequency, Scalia’s Reputation Continues To Deteriorate

Two years ago tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, much to Justice Antonin Scalia’s chagrin. Adding to his greatest-hits list, the far-right jurist called the majority’s rationale “legalistic argle-bargle.”

Today, as my msnbc colleague Irin Carmon reported, Scalia was once again in rare form today in his King v. Burwell dissent.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. Writing on their behalf, Scalia accused the majority of acting in bad faith just to save the law. “So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere. We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” Scalia wrote in the dissent. He said Roberts’ reasoning was an act of “interpretive jiggery-pokery.”

No, seriously. Scalia actually used the phrase “interpretive jiggery-pokery.” It’s on page 8. Two pages later, he published the phrase “pure applesauce” as a complete sentence.

The justice has been embarrassing himself with increasing frequency, but Scalia’s reputation continues to deteriorate further.

The broader point, however, is less about the justice’s strange word choice and more about his increasingly twisted approach to the law.

The dissent in King is literally hard to believe. On page 17 of the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts even mocks the dissenters for making the opposite conclusion that they drew three years ago:

“It is implausible that Congress meant the Act to operate in this manner.   See National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U. S. ___, ___ (2012) (SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., dissenting) (slip op., at 60) (“Without the federal subsidies … the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and may not operate at all.”).

It’s no small detail. Three years ago, when the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality was challenged, Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Sam Alito read the law in such a way as to see all eligible consumers receiving subsidies, regardless of state or federal exchanges. In today’s dissent, these three had to read the law in the polar opposite way.

And therein lies the point: it seems as if the dissenting justices were so eager to rule against “Obamacare” that they were willing to ignore legislative history, legislative intent, context, and their own beliefs from three years ago.

I’m also reminded of this Linda Greenhouse piece from February.

Statutory interpretation is something the Supreme Court does all the time, week in and week out, term after term. And while the justices have irreconcilable differences over how to interpret the Constitution, they actually all agree on how to interpret statutory text.  […]

Every justice subscribes to the notion that statutory language has to be understood in context. Justice Scalia said it from the bench just last month, during an argument about the proper interpretation of the federal Fair Housing Act. “When we look at a provision of law, we look at the entire provision of law, including later amendments,” Justice Scalia said. “We try to make sense of the law as a whole.” … Across the ideological spectrum, the court’s opinions are filled with comments like Justice Scalia’s.

Today, Scalia threw all of that out the window, saying what matters isn’t the entire provision of law, but how he could take half a sentence out of context to undermine a law he doesn’t like.

“Words no longer have meaning,” Scalia whined today. In reality, words are still fine. What lacks meaning are Scalia’s unhinged complaints.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, June 25, 2015

June 26, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Antonin Scalia, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: