Live-blogging Justice Scalia’s Speech

Justice Scalia’s speech will be live-blogged by the Wesleying crew.

Check past the jump for the liveblog coverage. 

12:27 am


My fellow blogger frostedmoose gave a pretty comprehensive summary of the speech. Also, sorry in advance if some of these are repeats, but some Q&A matters (besides Bush v. Gore, which Nick mentioned below) include:

  • Citizens United: To which he basically responded that the Constitution grants the right to free speech, and not the right to free speech for people. He also said that newspapers are a corporation too, and that you can’t make an exception for them, mentioning that freedom of the press refers not to the specific press, which didn’t exist in the time of the founders, but to printed material as a whole.
  • Women and the Constitution: Women are protected under the Constitution too.
  • Homosexuality in the Constitution: There’s nothing protecting same sex marriages, so any case case claiming that the banning of same sex marriage is unconstitutional is incorrect.
  • Slavery: One person asked the interesting question of whether, if he had been on the court before slavery were outlawed, he would have upheld slavery. His response was that yes – under the rationale that his job is to interpret the Constitution and that it was explicitly a part of the Constitution.
  • Abortion: Same as homosexuality: not in the constitution, anything brought before the court saying that the banning of abortion is unconstitutional is incorrect.
  • Cases Where Originalism Goes Against Personal Views: Scalia’s example was flag burning. He hates flag burning, but ruled that the banning of it is unconstitutional, since it is protected under the First Amendment. He also gave some other examples of cases where he dissented.
  • Originalism Isn’t Perfect: He says that Clarence Thomas is the “only other originalist on the court.” He cited an example when the two of them reached opposite conclusions on the same case. He had more of a rationale for how this can occur, and I don’t know if I feel confident enough at the moment to explain it fully, but it seemed to boil down to drawing on differing sources to determine the original intent.
  • Originalism Isn’t Rigid: A big part of his argument (which I found very interesting) is that originalism is not rigid in that, by focusing on the original intent, it does not create interpretations of the Constitution “on a whim” that it ossifies into de facto law. Instead, by limiting justices, it allows the people to pass laws on things – like, say, abortion – and change as they change their mind, not relying on the court to reverse previous decisions. He also says that, based on this, it’s more democratic – it leaves matters in the hands of the elected lawmakers. Implied in this is that, if you want a result more rigid than a law, you should pass an Amendment instead of trying to get the court to rule one way or another.
  • Disagreements with Past Decisions: Scalia cited one related to the Fourteenth Amendment. It was a bit complicated, so I don’t know if I feel confident explaining it here. I’ll try to edit this later when I’ve talked with someone about the nuances of it so that I’m certain that I understand it and all.

Anyway, cool stuff. For a social sciences nerd like me, it was really cool to hear the originalist rationale expressed in such a concise, clear, and convincing manner. Now I just want to hear someone from the other school on the Supreme Court – the one Scalia says doesn’t exist – and hear their rationale.

10:30 pm


Here was the basic structure of the talk (and pardon my omissions and crudeness; I’m working from memory):

  • Began with some basic foundational points about originalist interpretation; Justice Scalia made a point to contextualize himself against Justice Hugo Black (after which the annual lecture event is named), and put forward the dichotomy between “originalist” interpretations and “non-originalist” interpretations.
  • “Non-originalist” interpretations, according to Justice Scalia, include everything that isn’t “originalist” interpretations; so, in a way, it’s not a dichotomy, but it’s an illustration that the decision-making schema among Justices consists of one that has a distinct objective methodological base and everything else that is based on broad but informed whims (not his wording, but mine).
  • The Justice makes a big point about the originalist interpretation being the only game in town with an actual set of defined, universally-accessible rules. Everything else, he asserts, is subject to the individual will of the given Justice.
  • Asserts that he separates himself as a person away from his responsibility as an interpeter of the constitution.
  • The second half of his lecture consisted of responses against common criticisms of originalist interpretations. If I remember correctly, he addressed three in particular, one involving the attack that originalist interpretations are covers for conservative agendas, and another involving the idea that Justices are incompetent historians.
  • Makes a big point to distinguish the science of law against the science of history. Interesting stuff.
  • After the lecture, a bunch of stuff happened: condoms flew everywhere, and a banner came down.
  • The banner read something like “There is no justice in a court of conquerers” (i think?), and Justice Scalia’s response was, in a sarcastic tone, “That’s a persuasive argument.”
  • The Q&A kicked up shortly after that; most questions regarded specific cases, like Gore v. Bush, or on specific issues, like corporate personhood. Most of these were met with the predictable “I refer to the constitution” line of argument; personally, I felt that Justice Scalia’s tactic was justified, and that questions should have gone beyond individual topics and cases to actual constitutional theory. That would have been interesting.

Anyway, I missed out a lot of things. If anybody had a favorite quote, sound out below!

Mine was: “Eh?”, which was in response to a student’s circuitous question.

10:10 pm

Samira: Scalia drove away in a fancy black SUV. Will and Aron are fine, but Will is talking to a police officer about the law and stuff. Guantanamo people slowly dispersing.

9:58 pm

Samira: Actually, probably not ok because Will Wiebe ’14 and Aron Chilewich ’14 might have just gotten arrested. Or they might just be standing next to the cops ominously.#WEScalia

9:53 pm

Samira: Guantanamo hood people with the banner they tore down are walking around the Pavilion where Scalia is signing books. Their backs say “This is Freedom of Expression.” They talked to PSafe beforehand and keep pacing without anything crazy happening…so it’s probably fine?

9:32 pm

SamiraBasically, non-originalists don’t know anything. They wake up every morning and wonder if the “Death Penalty is a Thing yet,” but Scalia knows that Originalists don’t have this problem. There was a Death Penalty in 1776!

9:28 pm

A-Batte: That’s a wrap! I’m still left with some questions, though. What was the reaction inside to the banner drop and prisoner action? Did they actually drop “tons of condoms”, reading “Practice Safe Sodomy” and “Prevent More Abortions than Scalia”? (BZOD again)? I wonder if the people behind me are going to yell at me for having my computer open the whole time? How drunk did the fellows next to me get (drink every time Scalia says “Constitution”)? Let me know at No Age in an hour or two – I’m signin’ off.

9:15 pm

Samira: Believes he doesn’t bring any personal views to his court rulings because of Originalism. The only part of his Roman Catholic faith that he brings to cases is “Thou Shalt not lie.” “We should make the constitution say ‘what it oughta say.’” Later he gives the example of being a judge in Nazi Germany and says that if he  had to persecute a Jew or a Pole, he’d rather leave the bench than make the decision. At least he isn’t totally stringent with “the text?” Says he’s “never ever” consciously dealt with a case in which he used personal views.

9:08 pm

A-BatteMy last post 504?d – just pretend I wrote about the last two questions. Never mind, it got through. Scalia’s arms are crossed now. Now they’re open. On the podium now.

9:01 pm

A-Batte: Word on the street is the banner-droppers, who were also wearing prison hoods and jumpsuits, have been escorted out by security. Thanks to BZOD for the last couple of tidbits.

9:01 pm

SamiraGuantanamo hood kids moved out by security.

8:58 pm

A-Batte: Banner drop at the end of the speech: “There can be no justice in the court of the conqueror”. Scalia’s response: “Very persuasive”.

8:57 pm

Samira:  Someone asks what the Originalist view on Bush v. Gore is. Scalia says, “GET OVER IT!” Also, the people in the hoods from earlier are standing up in orange Guantanamo style jumpsuits

8:54 pm

SamiraSpeech is over. Questions ensue. Don’t yield to the liberal wiles of those liberals.

8:52 pm

SamiraScalia talks about how fun it is to be an Originalist, like that time when he and Justice Thomas broed out differing on Originalist interpretations of Mcintyre vs Ohio. Originalist methodology doesn’t always yield an easy answer. Is originalism perfect? Nah, but it’s the only definite answer to stuff. It’s THERE in the CONSTITUTION! I urge you not to yield to that democratic falsehood, he says.

8:48 pm

A-Batte: I’m going to stop keeping FinnScore now that Scalia brought up the “running from the bear” spin of Originalism: He doesn’t have to show it’s better, just that it’s better than everything else. Clearly the Government department knew exactly what was coming. Someone wanna scan YouTube for this speech?

8:41 pm

A-Batte: And now District of Columbia v. Heller. You’re killin’ it, Finn.

8:39 pm

SamiraWords change over time. Like “Corruption of Blood” doesn’t mean the same thing it used to in the late 18th Century. Scalia multitasks speaking and pouring water from a Dasani Water bottle. Gulps heard through mic.

8:36 pm

A-Batte: Oh man, the voice he used when he said critics think Originalism “petrifies the law” and opposes “the living Constitution”. “Do you want the death penalty? Elect those who will support it. Do you oppose the death penalty? Elect those who will abolish it.” For Scalia, if the Constitution ruled on the death penalty or abortion, that would limit the flexibility of democracy. The Constitution provides “rigidity”, and he doesn’t want liberal judges to convince you otherwise.

8:32 pm

Samira: “I detest the burning of the flag. If I were king I would make it a crime!” –Scalia

8:31 pm

A-Batte: By my count, Scalia’s name-dropped two of the key cases Prof. John Finn (who gave one of the introductions) had attendees to the Roosevelt Institute event read: New York Times v. Sullivan and Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association. And now, a third one: Texas v. Johnson.

8:30 pm

SamiraAbout a dozen people in the audience put black hoods over their heads in protest. Scalia continues to speak about originalism and brings up the NY Times v. Sullivan case to contrast his totally pure originalist views with those of ex-Justice Hugo Black (the namesake of this lecture series). Implied diss to Obama.


8:19 pm

A-Batte: Libel has never been protected speech under the Constitution. For Originalists, the same should apply to the internet. Well you know what? I think anyone who’d say that is nothing more than a

8:17 pm

A-Batte: Right now, I’m just really glad that Scalia’s not speaking faste than he is. Anywho. In talking about Originalism, Scalia uses the death penalty as an example – to him, there’s “no doubt” that an Originalist could much more easily come to the right conclusion as to whether the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment: by the Constitution, no.

He speaks of the difficulty of arguing for the “dead Constitution”, opting to call it “enduring” – but the idea that the Constitution’s meaning changes depending on what generation reads it is ridiculous.

8:12 pm

A-Batte: Scalia enters. I though bottled water was banned from campus?

8:09 pm

A-Batte: Just throwing it out there that lots of people laughed when Dougie Roth took the stand. The applause for Leonard Imissedyoulastname ’44 is the loudest yet. LONGING SERVICE


8:07 pm

Samira: The Roth Dog speaks. Gives shout out to Leonard S. Halpert ’44.

8:07 pm

A-Batte: Scalia walks in to thunderous clappage! Jake ’13 says something I can’t hear because there’s no mic!

8:05 pm

A-Batte: Scalia enters! Applause!

8:04 pm

SamiraHow pissed would Antonin Scalia be if we were late to oral arguments? Just sayin’.

7:49 pm

Greetings, internet! A-Batte and Samira, your two favorite PC loyalist bloggers (Windows all day, yo), are set up in the cordoned-off “Press Zone” of the CFA Hall. If you’re not going to watch the speech because you didn’t get a ticket, c’maaan! The CFA is not only comfortably under capacity, but the median age is likely significantly higher than the Goldsmith. Updates and some commentary on the protests (!) coming soon.


7:42 pm

Samira: Protesters chanting outside the Chapel. Stay calm–PSafe deployed on segways.

5:29 pm

Samira: More hype from NBC Connecticut:

A group of students calling itself the “Scalia Welcoming Committee” says it will protest outside the lecture beginning at 6 p.m. They claim Scalia represents “unjust and oppressive political systems” and “corporate control of elections.”

Members of the “Occupy” movement also plan to protest. The movement is critical of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in the Citizens United case that declared political spending by corporations and unions free speech and made it possible for super PACs to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money.

Disgruntled crowd outside of the Chapel in 31 minutes (actually, it’s supposed to really happen around 7 so in an hour-ish?)! Also, for those of you without tickets to the Chapel or to the Goldsmith theater, the CFA Hall and PAC 001 and 002 are also screening the Scalia lecture (no tickets needed, so get there well before 8).

2:53 pm

frostedmoose: I will give the highest of fives to anybody who asks Justice Scalia to recite LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.” Especially the part with the wiggles.

2:21 pm

Syed: Reminder: You should check out Bruce Neely’s “Bill of Rights” at 3:15PM or 4:15PM in the Chapel. Word on the street is that Scalia will be in attendance of the 3:15 performance and Roth will be in attendance of the 4:15 performance.  Pick your celebrity.

Also, check out the new Scalia-themed poll on the right.

2:14 pm

frostedmoose: they’re giving out free safe sex supplies? sweet! that cuts my trip to the health center in half.

1:59 pm

Syed: Looks like the Middletown Press is excited for the Scalia protests too.  The article quotes heavily from the statements of protest organizers, but does remind us:

The group will demonstrate Thursday at 6 p.m. in front of the Memorial Chapel at 221 High St., where Scalia will deliver his speech. He is scheduled to speak at 8 p.m.

According to a press release from a group calling itself the Scalia Welcoming Committee, protesters will wear Guantanamo Bay suits and Abu Ghraib hoods in protest of Scalia’s alleged complicity in war and torture. Some will dress as “Billionaires for Scalia” to symbolize Scalia’s alleged corruption and role in Citizens United. Others will distribute safe sex supplies to “combat Scalia’s assaults on reproductive freedom and privacy,” according to the press release.

1:20 pm

We’re getting closer to the go time. Get excited!

11:00 am

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16 thoughts on “Live-blogging Justice Scalia’s Speech

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  5. Vexed Senior

    The  focus on how Anwar’s professor has prepared his class pretty well for the lecture, plus the obvious lack of relevant information on what Scalia might be saying about Originalism = kind of the worst and most obnoxious coverage ever. I understand that Scalia may be speaking rather quickly, but I’d appreciate more of a focus on what is actually being said. Save trying-to-sound-funny-or-witty for another time, when you aren’t live-blogging an event that is, at least for some people, of great interest.

    1. anon

      I agree that there are many people who consider it of great interest. They’re the one’s watching it and not reading a liveblog.

      1. Vexed Senior

        Ah–did not realize that they were screening in PAC.
        In any case, I still maintain that the quality of the blogging was terrible. 
        Nick’s blurb that he just put in was far more informative than the two hours of live blogging. 

    2. Batte_A

      Finn’s not my Prof – I went to a Roosevelt Institute event featuring him. That being said, I’ll accept and more or less agree with your criticisms – even I found the summaries more useful. To add to anon’s comment, there were plenty of open seats in the CFA Hall as well.

  6. sneakergaze

    frostedmoose, I don’t know why (maybe it has to do with your LMFAO reference and the proximity of said song to all other party songs on the radio station that plays at Pi), but every time I see this post I have Super Bass playing in my head. 

  7. Question

    can we screen it on our computers from home or do we have to go to pac/cfa hall  if we don’t have a ticket?

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