Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts

This past Wednesday, Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit delivered the Madison Lecture on Judicial Engagement at Columbia Law School. The lecture series, sponsored by the CLS chapter of the Federalist Society, brings distinguished jurists to Columbia to discuss topics relevant to the federal judiciary and the administration of justice.

(Perhaps we should put “at” Columbia Law in quotation marks; Judge Posner actually appeared via video conference. That shouldn’t surprise, coming from a judge who lists The Matrix as one of his favorite films.)

In his talk, entitled “How I Interpret Statutes and the Constitution,” Judge Posner was his usual candid self. He offered commentary on two recent books about statutory and constitutional interpretation — books that he’s not a fan of.

Yes, readers. There will be benchslaps….

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Justice Scalia (left) and Judge Posner

Responding to a Supreme Court Justice who calls one a liar requires special care in expression.

– Judge Richard Posner, in a cover email introducing his written response to Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent “You lie!” accusation.

(More about this tiff, which we’ve been covering quite closely here at Above the Law, after the jump.)

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Justice Scalia (left) and Judge Posner

I’m not going to get into this whole thing written for a glossy magazine.

– Justice Antonin Scalia, responding to a question about his thoughts on Judge Richard Posner’s somewhat critical review, in the New Republic, of the justice’s new book, Reading Law (affiliate link).

(We attended Scalia’s talk, which took place this afternoon and was sponsored by the New York City Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society. Additional highlights from the eminently quotable justice’s remarks, after the jump.)

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Justice Scalia (left) and Judge Posner

Over the past few months, Justice Antonin Scalia and Judge Richard Posner have been trading benchslaps. The most recent clash got going a few weeks ago, when Judge Posner wrote a harsh review for the New Republic of Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner’s new book, Reading Law (affiliate link).

Scalia surrogates rushed to the justice’s defense. One of his former clerks, Ed Whelan, wrote a series of posts for the National Review’s Bench Memos blog in which he criticized the Posner review. Justice Scalia’s co-author, Professor Garner, also responded forcefully to Judge Posner (who in turn responded to Garner, again in the New Republic).

But the justice himself remained silent on all of this. When we reached out to both judges about the apparent tiff, Judge Posner denied any personal animosity, but Justice Scalia declined to comment.

Now Justice Scalia has broken his silence. And His Honor seems none too happy with Judge Posner’s book reviewing skills….

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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….

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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?

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What a weird situation…. [But Justice Scalia] is an incredible game player, using intellectual honesty as a trope, and that is the kind of thing that David Wallace would just love.

Elizabeth Wurtzel, the successful writer turned lawyer and legal commentator, on the surprising friendship between her close friend, David Foster Wallace, and Justice Antonin Scalia.

(The background behind Justice Scalia’s interest in Wallace, after the jump.)

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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?

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