Stories About Justice Scalia: Sorting Myths from Truths

A professor at Gettysburg College last week said she had heard that the Justice Scalia had never hired a single female law clerk.  On several radio shows, I’ve been asked about Scalia and Opus Dei. Then there’s the assertion I hear constantly that Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas vote in lockstep.

On many controversies (duck-hunting with Dick Cheney, for example), Justice Scalia is guilty as charged. But not on those above:

1. Justice Scalia has, in fact, hired several women clerks over the years, some of whom have gone on to prominent positions in academia, such as Joan Larsen at the University of Michigan. It is true, however, that clerks for a majority of the justices, including Scalia, have been overwhelmingly male (and white) through the years.

Retiring Supreme Court Justices: When They Say When They Are Going

I know exactly where I was when I first saw the headline of an ABC news story earlier this month that said, “White House Prepares for the Possibility of Two Supreme Court Vacancies.” I was in the San Francisco radio studio of Ronn Owens about to go on the air to talk about Justice Scalia, the Citizens United case and current term. Owens said the ABC story had just appeared on-line that February 4 morning and predicted the retirement subject would draw calls. “Two vacancies?” I said doubtfully. “Really?” As people who have since read the posting by longtime ABC producer Ariane de Vogue know, it said: “Court watchers believe two of the more liberal members of the court, justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, could decide to step aside for reasons of age and health.”

But Would the Supreme Court Law Clerk Have Taken My Call?

I could write about great snowstorms I have known, from Chicago in 1967 to Washington, D.C., in 1996 (a journalistic favorite because Chief Justice Rehnquist insisted on starting oral arguments right at 10 a.m. before all justices had made it in) and then declare how these storms don’t hold a candle to what’s happening now in the nation’s capital. (A stunning 54.9 inches for the winter!) But everyone has a blizzard tale this week, so on to something from the law school circuit:

The Religion of Current Supreme Court Justices: Could it Affect the Choice of the Next Nominee?

Since I’ve been on the road talking about Justice Scalia, I’ve consistently been asked about the fact that six of the nine justices are Roman Catholic and about how that affects the Court’s opinions, particularly those of Scalia. I devoted a chapter to Scalia and religion — Passions of His Mind — and, despite how touchy the intersection of personal belief and judicial views can be, I am ready to field these questions.

Assistant Attorney General Antonin Scalia, Watergate, and Wiretaps

I’d known from my research for American Original that the first big assignment of Assistant Attorney General Scalia in the Ford Administration in 1974 was an opinion determining whether Richard Nixon owned the tapes and documents sought by Watergate prosecutors. But I found on a recent trip to the Ford Library, where I obtained a declassified memo, that another early assignment was nearly as tricky.

Samuel Alito: Quiet, Contrary, and Now More Likely to Cross the Street

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito considered his Senate Judiciary Committee hearings so painful that for months after his 2006 confirmation he would try to avoid the Hart building where the nomination hearings were held. “I cross to the other side of the street,” he said. “I quicken my step until I’m well past the building.”

It’s likely Justice Alito now feels that way about the Capitol, where his disagreement with President Obama on Citizens United v. FEC during the State of the Union was seen by a national television audience.

Citizens United v. FEC: The Roles of Justices Scalia and Stevens

As legal commentators continue to debate last Thursday’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, I want to add a few observations related to Justices Scalia and Stevens. As Stevens read his poignant — sometimes halting — dissenting statement from the bench, he noted that the “seed that flowered” in the majority opinion had been planted by dissenters in the 1990 Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce. In his written opinion Thursday, Stevens took specific aim at Scalia– an architect of the view that prevailed last week.

When Clarence Thomas Does Speak

Justice Clarence Thomas has not spoken from the bench in nearly four years, and his silence regularly leads to questions from the public. When I’m asked, as happened twice last week, I usually repeat some of the reasons Thomas has given, including (as he told C-SPAN in 2009) he would rather let the lawyers talk on and explain their cases. Then I add that in interviews I’ve had with Thomas he has been unusually candid in his assessments of colleagues and open about his views. He provided some of the more vivid descriptions of Justice Scalia and Justice O’Connor, and he offered impressions of the confirmation process for Sonia Sotomayor last summer.

What’s Happening in Citizens United v. FEC? Solving — Eventually — the Mystery of Delayed Cases

The week is about to end without a ruling from the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, regarding governments’ authority to regulate corporate and labor union spending in elections. Both sides have been anxiously awaiting a decision in the case that was argued last September and could affect big-money expenditures in this fall’s mid-term elections and all future races.

So sure were many campaign experts that the ruling was coming this week that they deluged reporters with notices of planned teleconferences and statements of how significant the decision was likely to be.