Reverse Benchslap

Wipe that grin off your face, Sam.

I think the tongue-in-cheek answer would be that I was surprised because of how much [Justice Samuel Alito's] done in the way of supporting anti-discrimination laws over the years. But that would be just a facetious comment.

– Judge Harold Baer (S.D.N.Y.), responding to Justice Alito’s criticisms of the practice of encouraging law firms to staff class action suits with women and minority lawyers. Baer went on to sarcastically suggest that Alito lacked “either understanding or interest” in discrimination experienced by these groups.

Debra Milke

We will be appealing this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the Court takes the appeal, I will argue it personally as I have done in two previous cases over the past five months. In my last case, the Supreme Court accepted my argument and overruled the Ninth Circuit’s decision unanimously.

– Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, commenting on the Ninth Circuit’s grant of federal habeas relief to Debra Milke, who has been on Arizona’s death row for 22 years.

(Why is Milke sometimes called the “Arizona sister” of Casey Anthony? Keep reading….)

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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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Judge Stephen Reinhardt (left) and Judge Robert Jones

Will 2012 go down as the Summer of Feuding Judges? Over the past few months, we’ve been covering the feud in print between Judge Richard Posner and Justice Antonin Scalia.

And yesterday we wrote about the harsh smackdown by Judge Stephen Reinhardt (9th Cir.) of Chief Judge Robert C. Jones (D. Nevada). Today we’ve got Jones’s rebuttal, which is just as heated. It’s unusual to see a lower-court judge criticizing a judge higher up in the judicial hierarchy, but reverse benchslaps do happen.

How does Judge Jones feel about being called unacceptably arrogant? Let’s just say he responded in kind…

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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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Scalia to Posner: You're not the boss of me!

Over the years, Judge Richard Posner (7th Cir.) has sent a number of his clerks to the chambers of Justice Antonin Scalia. Query whether Judge Posner’s record as a feeder judge to Justice Scalia will be impaired by the recent sniping between them (or by Judge Posner’s ideological drift; as he recently told NPR, he has grown less conservative “since the Republican Party started becoming goofy”).

Last month, Judge Posner expressed misgivings over Justice Scalia’s impassioned dissent in Arizona v. United States, a high-profile case about immigration. Judge Posner questioned the “famously outspoken” justice’s decision to include complaints about illegal immigrants in his dissent, suggesting that such discussion might be more appropriate for a campaign ad than a judicial opinion.

In a recent interview, Justice Scalia benchslapped back — hard. What did he have to say?

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Tomorrow is going to be rough.

Tomorrow is a big day. And in all likelihood, a very sad one for many people (like me) who would prefer that the Affordable Care Act not be overturned.

As the countdown gets closer to zero, more of the discussion surrounding the Supreme Court has turned to Justice Antonin Scalia‘s role on the court, and in American politics more broadly.

To put it gently, he is ruffling a lot of people’s feathers (including, perhaps, the injured falcon that almost clawed my face off about 20 minutes ago).

Now you can add to that list Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, who is not too kind toward Scalia in his “Supreme Court Year in Review” column, published today on Slate.

Among other things, Posner criticizes Scalia’s “celebrity-type extrajudicial activities,” and he expresses uneasiness with the justice’s politicking. Let’s see exactly see what Posner has to say…

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Judge Jeffrey White

At the administrative appeal from the denial of benefits, Chief Judge Kozinski found that the FEHB statute confers on the OPM [Office of Personnel Management] the discretion to extend health benefits to same-sex couples by interpreting the terms “family members” and “member of the family” to set a floor, not a ceiling, to coverage eligibility…. The Court finds this reasoning unpersuasive.

– Judge Jeffrey S. White, in his recent order in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, which concluded that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

(Context and commentary, after the jump.)

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Of all the routines in judicial gymnastics, few have a higher degree of difficulty than the reverse benchslap, and we’re trying for a combination double with our Opinion today.

– Judge Mark V. Holmes of the United States Tax Court, dissenting in Tigers Eye Trading, LLC v. Commissioner.

(The background behind this judicial invocation of the term “reverse benchslap,” after the jump.)

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