St. Antonin the Rude
Another Supreme Court term, another reason to wonder why Justice Antonin Scalia says the things he does. The legal world this morning is all agog over a careless and insensitive remark Justice Scalia made yesterday during the first day of oral argument for the Court's new term. In a case about deporation (to Mexico) following a drug conviction, the eternally angry Justice said this to an attorney arguing before the Court: "No one thinks your client is abstaining from tequila for fear of being deported," he said. Supervision "is impossible once he leaves the country," he added. "This is an ingenious exercise of the conceivable."
According to Tony Mauro, a dean of Supreme Court reporters, "the comment raised eyebrows in the audience and offended some who were told about the remark afterward on the grounds that it perpetuates stereotypes about Mexicans. Lawyers directly involved in the case could not be reached or declined to comment publicly." After following Justice Scalia for lo these many years, and after reading countless opinions and dissents written by him, my guess is that he figured he was being funny, and clever, in making a remark about tequila when talking about a Mexican national. Of course it is not funny but that hasn't stopped Justice Scalia before. He thinks he is being provocative, or blunt, when in fact he's just being rude. In most cases it would be no big deal. But when it comes from a Supreme Court Justice, wearing his robe on the bench during an oral argument, it is a fairly big deal. He shouldn't have said it. And, having said it, he should now apologize.
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