30 November 2006

Excuse Yourself or Recuse Yourself (BR)
Scalia reveals a little too much information in court

I seem to be in a minority of lumpen-liberals who always enjoys Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's brusque courtroom manner and often agrees with his rigid constructionalist approach to the U.S. Constitution. He's an affable, witty guy on top of being a brilliant scholar and jurist, despite his personal politics. In participating in the Court's first foray into U.S. law as it pertains to global warming policy, however, Scalia stepped over the line of judicial propriety he so frequently teases and taunts by stating his total lack of interest in the subject matter:
[Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General James R.] Milkey faced skeptical questioning from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court's newest members, but the most sustained -- and entertaining -- interrogation came from Scalia.

At one point, he acknowledged the role of carbon dioxide as a pollutant in the air but wondered about it being a pollutant in the "stratosphere."

"Respectfully, Your Honor, it is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere," Milkey said.

"Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist," Scalia said to laughter. "That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth."
-- Washington Post
Scalia is well within his rights to display overt skepticism about an argument and even to ridicule petitioners before the bench, enjoying as he does the unparalleled job security of being a Justice, but I would respectfully assert that he is in such a position because he has demonstrated an ability to judge fairly and base his judgments on a meticulously-researched and thorough knowledge on the legal history of the subject at hand, regardless of whether or not he's interested.

Few people know how a case appears before the Supreme Court. Thousands of people petition the court each year, and the Justices, in closed-door sessions, review each one and vote on whether to consider it, and Justice Scalia took part in just such a meeting for this case, evidently voting "Nay." His opinion on the merit of the subject matter having been established and defeated, it is now his call on whether to sit and hear the case or recuse himself based on a failure to see global warming as a Constitutional issue. It is not his privilege to hang out at the most powerful court in the land and cop a "Whatever" attitude more befitting a high-school senior in a late-May pre-calculus class than a Supreme Court Justice.

We feel that Justice Scalia, having evinced an obvious contempt for carrying out the charge of the body which he serves -- in this case, anyway -- should either apologize or recuse himself from hearing the case.

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