Antonin Scalia, Cars, Federal Judges, SCOTUS, Supreme Court

The Wheels of Justice (Scalia): Will Nino Fight His Traffic Ticket?

In my earlier story about Justice Antonin Scalia’s fender-bender on the George Washington Parkway, I tossed out a question: What kind of car does Justice Scalia drive?

A few years ago, Justice Scalia drove a BMW. Is Nino still partial to Bimmers, or has he switched his automotive allegiances?

Now we know the answer — and more about the accident, including whether Justice Scalia was at fault….

Justice Scalia continues to favor BMWs. He was driving a shiny black one when he got into the accident, according to the Washington Post.

(Random aside: How long has he been a BMW owner? Any sympathy he might have for the luxury automaker didn’t prevent him from voting against BMW in the landmark case of BMW v. Gore (1996).)

Here’s more detail about this morning’s car accident, from Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger of the Reliable Source:

The accident happened just before 9 a.m. on what was to be a big day for the jurist: The nation’s highest court was hearing arguments in the massive Wal-Mart gender discrimination case. According to U.S. Park Police, Scalia was driving south on the parkway approaching Roosevelt Bridge when he rear-ended a car that had stopped for traffic, triggering a chain reaction.

Brooke Salkoff saw it all go down. The former NBC reporter told us she was just behind Scalia’s vehicle, a shiny black BMW in the left lane. “It slammed into the car in front of his, which pushed the other two forward,” and caused them all to skew into the right lane, she said.

Justice Scalia believes in stare decisis — but perhaps he needs to follow less closely? [FN1]

No doubt in Salkoff’s mind that Scalia was at fault, as the driver who failed to brake. “I think that’s an originalist interpretation,” she quipped. Indeed, said the Park Police’s Sgt. David Schlosser, the justice got a ticket for following too closely. Fine: $70, plus a $20 special assessment, or, said Schlosser, “he can contest it in court.”

Yes, Nino got a ticket. Cue liberal schadenfreude.

Associate justices earn over $200,000 a year, so the BMW-driving Scalia can easily afford the $90. But as SCOTUS watchers know, the brilliant but temperamental jurist — known for aggressive questioning at oral argument, and throwing sharp jabs in his opinions — is willing to fight when he thinks he’s right (which is often).

So here’s to hoping that Justice Scalia contests his ticket. We don’t get out much here at Above the Law — the demands of the news cycle usually keep us glued to our computers — but the spectacle of one of The Nine descending on a lowly trial court would warrant live coverage.

(Additional info about the accident, including what Justice Scalia was wearing at the time, can be found in the full WaPo piece.)

[FN1] Justice Scalia has a more robust concept of stare decisis than, say, Justice Thomas. As Justice Scalia explained during an appearance at Duke Law School:

[Professor Neil] Siegel, a constitutional law scholar and former Supreme Court clerk, asked Scalia to expound on his statement that he was “an originalist, not a nut.”

“When I say ‘I’m not a nut,’” Scalia replied, “I mean I accept as a limitation on the interpretive philosophy of originalism that you must accept, as a limitation on any interpretive philosophy, stare decisis.”

Contrast Justice Scalia’s view with that of Justice Thomas, who is much more willing to revisit precedents with which he disagrees.

UPDATE (3/30/11, 10 AM): More about the GW Parkway, from a Virginia tipster:

I got my first speeding ticket on there for going 30+ mph over the speed limit, right after I graduated from law school. The Parkway still has the old 35-40 mph speed limit in certain areas, which is some kind of hangover from the days when the road was for Sunday drives, not tens of thousands of commuters. Because the Parkway is governed by Virginia state law (although policed by federal officers), if you go more than 20 mph over the limit, it’s an automatic reckless driving charge, and you’re required to show up in court (this law provides a niche practice for some VA lawyers).

And, the court you in which you appear is the E.D. Va. in Alexandria, not a Virginia state court. It’d be fun to see a Supreme Court Justice show up in the Rocket Docket on a traffic citation.

Fun indeed. And would appeals go to the Fourth Circuit, followed by the Supreme Court? Who would recuse?

Justice Antonin Scalia ticketed for GW Parkway fender-bender; will he take it to court? [The Reliable Source / Washington Post]

Earlier: Justice Scalia Gets Caught in a Fender-Bender

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