Antonin Scalia

The [Ninth Circuit] seems to have cherry-picked the aspects of our opinions that gave colorable support to the proposition that the un-constitutionality of the action here was clearly established.

Qualified immunity gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions. When properly applied, it protects ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.’ [Former Attorney General John] Ashcroft deserves neither label, not least because eight Court of Appeals judges agreed with his judgment in a case of first impression.

– Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the Court in Ashcroft v. al-Kidd (via Josh Blackman). (The eight Court of Appeals judges are those who joined Judge O’Scannlain’s dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc.)

Justice Kennedy says: 'Open Sesame.'

It’s late May, so we’re entering the home stretch of the Supreme Court Term. Over the next few weeks, the Court will be handing down opinions in the most contentious, closely divided cases.

One such opinion came down today: Brown v. Plata (formerly Schwarzenegger v. Plata). In this high-profile case, a three-judge district court issued an order that directed the State of California to reduce its prison population — e.g., by releasing prisoners (as many as 46,000, at the time of the order) — in order to address problems with overcrowding and poor health care for inmates.

When SCOTUS granted cert, I thought that it did so in order to summarily reverse. Federal judges running penal institutions, ordering tens of thousands of convicted criminals to be let out onto the streets? The district court’s order reeked of the kind of Ninth Circuit liberal activism that doesn’t sit well with the Roberts Court. (Note that one of the members of the three-judge panel was the notoriously left-wing Judge Stephen Reinhardt.)

Well, I was wrong. The Court just affirmed, 5-4, in an opinion by (who else?) Justice Anthony Kennedy.

There were two dissents, by Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Justice Scalia’s opinion in particular contains some stinging (but ultimately ineffectual) benchslaps….

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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….

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The wheels of justice might have taken a wrong turn today. It seems that Justice Antonin Scalia had some minimum contacts — with another vehicle, on a highway outside D.C.

According to a Supreme Court spokesperson, Justice Scalia was involved in a minor car accident this morning, while heading in to One First Street to hear oral argument in Wal-Mart v. Dukes. The accident took place on the George Washington Parkway (a tricky road to drive on, as I know from my time spent in Washington).

Justice Scalia — my personal favorite among the justices, for his brilliance, wit, colorful personality, and unmatched writing skill — was thankfully not injured. He made it on to the bench in time for the Tuesday oral argument session.

What kind of car does Justice Scalia drive?

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* Johnson & Johnson will have to fix several factories after an agreement with the FDA prompted by massive product recalls. This still doesn’t explain why my bottle of Tylenol may contain tree nuts. [Bloomberg]

* Charlie Sheen hammered out a custody agreement With Brooke Mueller. That’s nice. [People Magazine]

* Texas may consider a law that would make losers pay attorneys’ fees. Easy, New York Mets. Not all losers. Just those who lose lawsuits. [New York Times]

* A discussion of the legal complaints lodged against the Wisconsin Legislature for Wednesday night’s votes. You know who’s not complaining? This guy. [Wisconsin State Journal]

* A former assistant attorney general from Maine was sentenced yesterday in a child porn case. This is definitely the year of the assistant AG. [ABA Journal]

Happy Birthday Nino

* Not all people living in Idaho are racists, duh. Some are gangsters from Boston. [New York Times]

* Law firm profits and productivity were up in 2010, while demand was flat and revenue was modestly up. Someone named Dan DiPietro and someone named Gretta Rusanow tag-teamed a report all about it. [Am Law Daily]

* A former McGuireWoods partner pleaded guilty to falsifying a tax document. [ABA Journal]

* Linda Greenhouse wishes Justice Scalia a happy 75th birthday. Sort of. [The Opinionator / New York Times]

Justice Alito is going to the State of the Union this year? Not true, not true!

Tomorrow night, many of us will tune in to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address — hoping to catch more catfighting than on an episode of Jersey Shore.

Last year’s SOTU did not disappoint drama-seekers. As you may recall, an Article II vs. Article III smackdown took place: President Obama chided the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision, with six members of the Court sitting a stone’s throw away from him, and Justice Samuel Alito responded by mouthing “not true” at the POTUS.

(Speaking of Citizens United, the decision celebrated its one-year anniversary last week, on January 21. And as Josh Blackman notes, the world has not come to an end, contrary to the dire predictions of distraught liberals. Of course, experts in this area — including some Obama-supporting liberals — told us that Citizens United wasn’t that big a deal.)

Thanks to last year’s juicy Obama v. Alito showdown, numerous commentators have wondered: Will Supreme Court justices attend the State of the Union this year? If so, which ones?

Let’s make some predictions, justice by justice….

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I think [New York pizza] is infinitely better than Washington pizza, and infinitely better than Chicago pizza. You know these deep-dish pizzas — it’s not pizza. It’s very good, but … call it tomato pie or something. … I’m a traditionalist, what can I tell you?

— Justice Antonin Scalia, in an interview with California Lawyer magazine (via Josh Blackman, who identifies additional highlights from the interview).

And just like that, it’s December. Flurries fill the sky, Wham’s “Last Christmas” saturates the airwaves, and the list of weddings in the New York Times shortens dramatically. Quality tends to decline along with quantity, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised to find plenty of comment-worthy nuptials (and attractive brides!) over the past couple of weeks.

Here are the three weddings that most caught caught our eye:

Elizabeth Kronick and Michael Kleinman

Alexandra Endelson and Michael Bassik

Lucy Martinez and James Sullivan Jr.

Check out these couples’ pictures and write-ups, including one jaw-dropping wedding registry — plus a list of all the recent legal eagle weddings — after the jump.

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Justice Antonin Scalia, being interviewed by Jan Crawford of CBS News at the Federalist Society's annual dinner in Washington, DC.

On Thursday evening, I had the great pleasure of attending the annual dinner at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, in Washington, D.C. The event — attended by an estimated 1,400 people, and held in the cavernous ballroom at the Omni Shoreham — featured, as always, conservative and libertarian legal luminaries galore.

(Did Judge Diane Sykes just air-kiss Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain? Isn’t that Ken Cuccinelli over at the bar? What might Judges Brett Kavanaugh and Jeff Sutton be discussing so intently — maybe the latest clerks they’ve placed at the Supreme Court? Whoa — Ted Olson chatting with Justice Samuel Alito! Be still my heart….)

The highlight of the evening was the interview of Justice Antonin Scalia by Jan Crawford, chief legal correspondent of CBS News (who was looking fabulous in a black dress with open sleeves). The justice was in fine form, hilarious and freewheeling in his remarks….

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I just wanted to get out there, let my talents shine, and show that I, too, can be a constitutional originalist and claim strict adherence to the intent of those who framed our nation’s founding document, thereby advancing a conservative agenda. Pretty sure I nailed it, too.

– “Supreme Court Understudy Fills In For Scalia,” The Onion.

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