Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Judge William Pryor reviews book on Justice Scalia

11th Circuit Judge and SCOTUS short-lister, William Pryor, wrote this review of "Scalia Speaks" for Law360. Here's a snippet:

Scalia’s famous literary style shines on every page. Consider, for example, his colorful description of his “intense dislike” of legal canards — that is, “oft-repeated statements that he [wa]s condemned to read, again and again, in the reported cases.” Scalia complained, “It gets to be a kind of Chinese water torture: one’s intelligence strapped down helplessly by the bonds of stare decisis that require these cases to be read, and trickled upon, time after time, by certain ritual errors, vapidities, and non sequiturs.”

Or consider his vivid description of the remote injury caused by a package of fireworks to a railroad passenger in a famous legal case: “And when the package landed on the rails, there resulted a rather large pyrotechnic explosion, which caused a set of scales a considerable distance away on the far end of the platform to fall over, and to land on top of poor Mrs. Palsgraf, who was injured.”

The collection even offers advice from the late justice to Scribes: The American Society of Legal Writers about the “time and sweat” necessary to become a good writer: that is, one who has what the justice called “the ability to place oneself in the shoes of one’s audience; to assume only what they assume; to anticipate what they anticipate; to explain what they need explained; to think what they must be thinking; to feel what they must be feeling.” That advice came when the society unsurprisingly honored the justice with a lifetime achievement award.

Scalia’s wit also offers laughs at every turn. To the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in New York City, Scalia explained “the best formula for after-dinner speeches being what one of the Jesuits I had in high school advised was the best advice for kissing among unmarried couples: leviter, breviter.” In a crack about the education of new Catholic priests, Scalia then deadpanned, “For the younger clergy in the audience, that is Latin for ‘lightly and briefly.’” And then after what must have been a pause, he delivered the punch line: “I have reason to believe that that advice has been no more effective for after-dinner speakers than it has been for unmarried couples.”

The next week he spoke to B’nai B’rith in the nation’s capital, where he recalled his speech to the Friendly Sons the week before and said, “Washington is becoming more and more like New York. Just last Wednesday I was at the dinner for the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and here I am at B’nai B’rith. As Irving Kristol said some years ago, in reference to a Jewish mayor of Dublin, ‘Only in America!’” And then there’s Scalia’s description of one his “most humbling moments” as a turkey hunter: “I took a shot at a gobbler and he went right down — flapped a little and went down. I was so excited, I jumped out of the box stand and hurried to him. I got about five feet away and he lifted his head, looked at me, and ran away.” Scalia then explained, “And I had left my gun back in the box stand.”

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