During the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Samuel A. Alito, some conservatives grumbled about one nickname bestowed upon him: “Scalito.” They argued that it unfairly treated him as a jurisprudential clone of Justice Antonin Scalia, without recognizing his independence as a thinker. Some also viewed the nickname as reflecting anti-Italian prejudice.
We’d like to reclaim the name of “Scalito,” and put it to legitimate use. Let’s turn it into the judicial equivalent of “Bennifer” (the first and best celebrity couple neologism, superior to “Brangelina” or “Vaughniston”). In these pages, we will use “Scalito” to refer to Justices Scalia and Alito whenever they appear in public together — as they did this past weekend.
Approximately 400 people attended a panel discussion on judicial independence, held this past Saturday at the Washington Hilton. The discussion, sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation, featured Justices Scalia and Alito, as well as William S. Sessions, a former FBI director and federal judge, and Lynn A. Battaglia, a Maryland appeals court judge.
Not surprisingly, Justice Scalia stole the show. Accounts of this Article III celebrity sighting focus primarily on his remarks. His main point was to question judicial independence as an absolute virtue: “You talk about independence as though it is unquestionably and unqualifiably a good thing. It may not be. It depends on what your courts are doing.”
Familiar stuff. His remarks about media coverage of the courts were far more amusing:
“The press is never going to report judicial opinions accurately. They’re just going to report, who is the plaintiff? Was that a nice little old lady? And who is the defendant? Was this, you know, some scuzzy guy? And who won? Was it the good guy that won or the bad guy? And that’s all you’re going to get in a press report, and you can’t blame them…. Because nobody would read it if you went into the details of the law that the court has to resolve.”
Sad but true. And Justice Alito echoed some of these sentiments:
Alito complained that people understand the courts through a news media that typically oversimplifies and sensationalizes. He said people’s ability to amplify their comments globally about judges and their opinions on the Internet takes a toll on the judiciary.
“This is not just like somebody handing out a leaflet in the past, where a small number of people can see this,” he said. “This is available to the world. … It changes what it means to be a judge. It certainly changes the attractiveness of a judicial career.”
Justice Alito, are you calling into question the value of writing about judges on the internet? If so, you’re hurting our feelings…
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Scalia Rips Judges on Abortion, Suicide [Associated Press]