Constitutional Interpretation

Left to right: Bryan Garner, Antonin Scalia, and Richard Posner

The jurisprudential wrestling match between Justice Antonin Scalia and Judge Richard Posner is quickly turning into a WWE tag team battle royal. Tagging in to help Justice Scalia: Bryan Garner, one of the foremost authorities on legal writing and legal language. Professor Garner, of course, is Justice Scalia’s co-author on Reading Law (affiliate link).

Professor Garner is not happy with Judge Posner’s treatment of the book. Let’s hear what he has to say — and also speculate on how the Posner/Scalia tiff might affect Posner’s feeding of law clerks to Scalia….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Posner v. Scalia: Bryan Garner Tags In”

Justice Scalia (left) and Judge Posner

In case you missed it, you should check out Judge Richard Posner’s recent review of the new book by Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner, Reading Law (affiliate link). The review is deeply thoughtful and elegantly written, but a bit… harsh. It’s a definite reverse benchslap.

And it’s just the latest blow in an ongoing slugfest between Judge Posner and Justice Scalia, which we’ve chronicled in our pages. In June, Judge Posner criticized Justice Scalia’s dissent in Arizona v. United States. In July, Scalia saucily responded by saying of Posner, “He’s a court of appeals judge, isn’t he? He doesn’t sit in judgment of my opinions as far as I’m concerned.”

Ouch. These exchanges got me (and others) wondering: What’s going on between these two eminent jurists?

I reached out to both Justice Scalia and Judge Posner with this question: Is it personal?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Benchslap Dispatches: Posner v. Scalia — Is It Personal?”

In case you’re wondering, there was no major news out of the U.S. Supreme Court this morning. Our friends at SCOTUSblog predict that opinions in the marquee cases, such as the Arizona immigration case and the health care reform case (aka Obamacare), will be issued next week. (Above the Law’s own Supreme Court correspondent, Matt Kaiser, should have a more detailed write-up of this morning’s proceedings later today.)

But we do have some SCOTUS-related news to mention this morning (and not just the latest in law clerk hiring). Did you know that Justice Antonin Scalia has a new book out, hitting stores tomorrow?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner on the Interpretation of Legal Texts”

Justice Elena Kagan

It seems like we’re all working hard. It’s not like we’re playing golf on Wednesday afternoons.

– Justice Elena Kagan, in remarks delivered at Harvard Law School this past Friday to the National Association of Women Judges.

(A second Quote of the Day, from a circuit judge who feeds clerks to Justice Kagan, after the jump.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Quotes of the Day: On Wednesdays We Wear Black!”

Protesting Justice Scalia at Wesleyan.

Yesterday I wrote about Justice Antonin Scalia delivering the distinguished Hugo Black Lecture at Wesleyan University. In my write-up of Justice Scalia’s remarks, I alluded to campus protests held immediately prior to the speech. These protests, by a group calling itself the “Scalia Welcoming Committee,” were styled “Occupy Scalia” (a somewhat unfortunate moniker, in my view.)

I took some photographs and video footage of the protestors. Check these people out….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Justice Scalia at Wesleyan: Now With Photos and Video”

Justice Scalia speaking last night at Wesleyan University.

Last night, Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the prestigious Hugo Black Lecture at Wesleyan University, speaking in the university’s Memorial Chapel before a packed house. Wesleyan is an uber-liberal school — the basis for the movie PCU, about a very Politically Correct University — and Justice Scalia’s visit was preceded by campus protests (dubbed “Occupy Scalia”). But I was pleasantly surprised by how respectful and appreciative the audience was of Justice Scalia’s deeply thoughtful and persuasive remarks; the protests during his speech were minor and clustered near the end.

I trekked up to Middletown from New York City to attend the lecture. What did Justice Scalia have to say? And what did the protests entail?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Justice Scalia Goes to Wesleyan”

In 2009, Professor Martin H. Redish of Northwestern Law School published a book arguing that class actions are in large part unconstitutional: Wholesale Justice: Constitutional Democracy and the Problem of the Class Action Lawsuit (Stanford Univ. Press 2009). Where is the practicing bar?

I understand that nobody reads law review articles or books published by an academic press. And I wouldn’t condemn any practicing lawyer to reading any issue of a law review from cover to cover. But I don’t think it’s asking too much to insist that lawyers remain gently abreast of the academic literature in their field and deploy new ideas aggressively when scholars propose them. Redish’s book shows why in-house counsel should demand more of their outside lawyers.

This post is a two-fer: I’m going both substantive — by summarizing Redish’s argument about why many class actions are unconstitutional — and pragmatic — by criticizing law firms that ignore ideas springing up in the academy that should be used in litigation. (For me, drafting that two-fer is an unusual trick. As regular readers know, it’s typically hard to find even a single thought tucked into one of my columns.)

What does Redish say about class actions, and how have most law firms been derelict?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: Torpedoing Class Actions”

I’m hoping the living Constitution will die.

– Justice Antonin Scalia, in remarks made yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Justice Scalia and Justice Stephen G. Breyer were invited by the Committee to discuss their views on constitutional interpretation and the proper role of judges in our democracy.

As Republicans continue to play chicken with the nation’s solvency, the idea that the president doesn’t need congressional approval to raise the debt ceiling is gaining traction. The thought bubble suggests that President Obama can raise the debt ceiling because of language in the Fourteenth Amendment stating that the nation’s debt “shall not be questioned.”

The idea has been trumpeted by none other than former president Bill Clinton. Clinton said that he would unilaterally raise the debt ceiling and “force the courts to stop me.”

Of course, President Clinton had what the scientists call “balls.” He knew how to handle a group of intractable Republicans more concerned with scoring political points than governing.

President Obama? The New York Times has his response: “I have talked to my lawyers. They are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.”

Can Aaron Sorkin please write a “Let Obama Be Obama” episode? Because sometimes Barack Obama really likes to dangle his feet in the water of whatever the hell it is he dangles his feet in, when he wants to make it look like he’s trying without pissing too many people off.

In any event, is invoking Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment a “winning” argument that could solve this debt crisis?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “To Be Young, An Executive, And Above the Law: Thoughts on the Debt Ceiling Impasse”

The Constitutional Daily tweeted a very interesting question at me this morning:

Bill removing racist language from AL constitution opposed by black lawmakers – http://bit.ly/iqmDsu@ElieNYC please explain

All right, I’ll put on my “ask a black dude” hat. And I can explain this.

But it’s complicated. And it requires understanding the subtleties of the positions of all parties involved. And it’s hard to really carve out a strident and principled position either way.

So, you know, this is a great conversation to have on the internet….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Can We Whitewash the Alabama Constitution?”

Page 2 of 3123