Wednesday, February 04, 2009

"That's a nasty, impolite question."

In a room filled with some of Palm Beach County's most powerful people, it took a 20-year-old political science student to throw off U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Tuesday afternoon.Student Sarah Jeck stood in front of 750 people and asked Scalia why cameras are not allowed in the U.S. Supreme Court even though the court hearings are open, transcripts are available and the court's justices are open enough to go "out on book tours." Scalia was at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in part to do a book signing and wasn't happy at the question."Read the next question," Scalia replied. "That's a nasty, impolite question."Scalia's trademark mixture of humor, confidence and combativeness was on full display Tuesday at a luncheon put on by the Palm Beach County Forum Club and Bar Association.


After the luncheon, Jeck said she wasn't offended by Scalia's chilly response and was excited to see him speak. But that doesn't mean she agreed with him."I don't think that it should be up to him what parts the American people can and can't see of the judicial process," she said.

The DBR has more here. And Palm Beach blogger Grey Tesh has this:

Scalia on why there should be no cameras in the courtrooms, particularly in the trial (district) courts:"There's something sick about making entertainment out of people's problems."Maybe. but what about the public learning about minimum mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders? About the government not turning over crucial documents until the witness has testified? About how the agent gets to sit in and listen to everybody's testimony before he testifies? About how the snitch (the most culpable defendant) got 3 years for his "cooperation" testimony while his co-defendants are facing life for their minor roles?It's not just entertainment, it can be an education. That's what the American public will get if cameras were in the federal trial courts.Scalia also said "I should be the pinup boy for the criminal defense lawyers."


Anonymous said...

I think Scalia is right. Lawyers seem to think that they will become famous overnight, a la Britney Spears, if cameras are allowed in the courtrooms. We all know that cameras won't "educate" the public but rather will turn trials into circuses. Cameras intoxicate the behavior of individuals in serious matters. If you want to educate the public, just open up a discussion on the internet or something. Where's the humility in our profession? We're not supposed to be famous.

Anonymous said...

This pop media culture disgusts me. Do you think for one minute that people watch Judge Judy to learn about the rules of procedure? The federal district courts would be no different. That's why we have football games--for the entertainment. Trials should not be turned into football games.

South Florida Lawyers said...

Love that picture.

Anonymous said...

I think scalia is ed williams

Ed Williams said...

I am not Justice Scalia, and he is not me. However, as usual, I agree with what he says.

Believe it or not, the only time I spoke informally with a Justice I was polite and told him were were on different sides of most issues, but I prayed for his health and hoped he would remain on the Court for the remainder of my lifetime to keep the penultimate of my type in check. He died.

Remember not being popular is a true virtue.

The Palm Beach Bar is full of idiots, so why expect students there to be any different.

The robe is to be respected and not challenged. To put it another way, Obama's respect for the Presidency is why he will not permit inquisition of the prior administration. Except, of course, for the lying, obstructing AG. (Being political within the Constitution is not a crime, but covering up or lying about a noncrime is). He is going to go down.

Anonymous said...

If anyone wants my Scalia bobblehead in a trade, let me know. I will accept a Stevens, O'Connor or Brandeis in return.

Anonymous said...

Ed, did you accept the bet re the new US Atty? see the string following your earlier post on the topic.

Rumpole said...

For the record, I had nothing to do with that question.
And I think I could ask another question that could evoke a similar response.

However, I wonder why Scalia used those words for a question that was legitimate and not nasty?

Anonymous said...

that was NOT an impolite question. Scalia bristled at its incitefulness. Kudos for the student to ask the question. The answer that Scalia should have given, without the snarkiness he is known for, is simply that the court as an institution cannot be used simply for entertainment purposes. That is what cameras in the courtroom generally display. The fact that individual judges can go on book tours, like him, does not alter that fact. I would agree with scalia on that score. As usual, however, he opted for a cheney-like attack on the questioner. So smart, yet so dumb.