In one-on-one conversation, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could be charming, humerous and a pleasant conversationlist.
During my time in Washington — darkened by a decade-long trip to the “dark side” of politics as a GOP operative and later as Divisional Vice President for Political Programs at The National Association of Realtors — I met Scalia several times, shared a table with him at a dinner, and later interviewed him when I returned to a real job as a newspaperman.
Scalia also had a dark side. He was a hard-core right wing Republican who let his political leanings color his judgment and lead him to questionable behavior as a Supreme Court Justice.
He too often allowed himself to sit in judgment on cases where he had a clear conflict of interest. He was urged to recuse himself from cases involving abortion and birth control because his wife, Maureen has a long history of working closely with crisis pregnancy centers as both a “crisis counselor” and as associate director of one in Virginia.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a duck-hunting buddy of Scalia at a time when the court was considering a ruling on the vice president’s “stonewalling” case, one of many blatant examples of abuse of power by Cheney. Scalia did not recuse himself.
Scalia’s hunting trips were often set up by lawyers involved in cases before the Supreme Court. It was an active part of his social life.
In a high-visibility case involves quota systems that help minority students to get into college. In Fisher vs. University of Texas, Scalia said:
There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.
One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas,” he said. “They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.
The comment brought crises of “racism” from some because of the suggestion that Scalia might think that black students are inferior.
In his often dissenting opinions, Scalia was usually acerbic and even more often beholden to his right-wing background.
Scalia’s dissents accused other justices of “interpretive jiggery-pokery” and “pure applesauce.” He suggested those who need more information should “ask the nearest hippie.”
Scalia wasalso a hypocrite. In his dissension on a case trying to gut the Affordable Care Act, he said “the Supreme Court favors some laws over others and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assists its favorites.”
This was the same Antonin Scalia who helped support the majority of the court in Bush vs. Gore, which declared George W. Bush winner of the 2000 Presidential election before all the votes were counted.
Scalia was the longest serving current member of the Supreme Court, appointed when former actor Ronald Regan was President.
Like the old man who appointed him, Scalia was a dinosaure from another age that needs to be long forgotten.
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