Is Scalia Getting Senile?

Back in 2012 Charles Pierce wrote that Justice Antonin Scalia had started his retirement without bothering to leave the bench.

It’s been clear for some time now that he’s short-timing his job on the Supreme Court. The job bores him. All these inferior intellects coming before him. All those inferior intellects on the bench with him, now with some other Catholics who aren’t even as Catholic as he is, Scalia being the last living delegate who attended the Council of Trent. Inferior Catholics with inferior minds. What can a fellow do? He hung in there as long as he could, but he’s now bringing Not Giving A Fuck to an almost operatic level.

Scalia long gave up on paying lip service to impartiality or even consistency with his own past opinions.

It is plain now that Scalia simply doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act on its face. It has nothing to do with “originalism,” or the Commerce Clause, or anything else. He doesn’t think that the people who would benefit from the law deserve to have a law that benefits them. On Tuesday, he pursued the absurd “broccoli” analogy to the point where he sounded like a micro-rated evening-drive talk-show host from a dust-clotted station in southern Oklahoma. And today, apparently, he ran through every twist and turn in the act’s baroque political history in an attempt to discredit the law politically, rather than as a challenge to its constitutionality. (What in hell does the “Cornhusker Kickback” — yet another term of art that the Justice borrowed from the AM radio dial — have to do with the severability argument? Is Scalia seriously making the case that a banal political compromise within the negotiations from which bill eventually is produced can affect its ultimate constitutionality? Good luck ever getting anything passed if that’s the standard.) He’s really just a heckler at this point. If he can’t do any better than that, he’s right. Being on the court is a waste of his time.

Pierce speculates that Scalia is bored with being on the SCOTUS. Otherwise, why would a man at least bright enough to achieve this level of success in a legal career say things this stupid?

But now Scalia has made an blunder that observers are calling shocking and even unprecedented, misstating basic facts about one of his own past decisions.

The Court — although not Justice Scalia personally, I don’t think — issued a rewritten version of his dissent. Here’s the gist of the matter —

Scalia was dissenting from a 6-2 decision upholding the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate cross-state coal pollution. To help back up his judgment, he cited a 9-0 opinion he wrote in 2001 called Whitman v. American Trucking Association. But the EPA’s stance in that case was the exact opposite of what Scalia said it was in Tuesday’s opinion.

It’s not the first time a justice has erred. In July 2008, a majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy mischaracterized federal law when ruling unconstitutional the death penalty for raping a child. The opinion argued that the death penalty for such a crime existed in just six states and not on a federal level. That claim was false, as the New York Times reported afterward: Congress had passed a law two years earlier saying child rape was subject to the military death penalty. The Court subsequently issued a corrected opinion with a footnote noting the change, unlike this week when its correction came surreptitiously and without notice.

There is speculation Scalia’s clerks actually wrote the dissent and the justice didn’t bother to read it first, but if that’s the case it’s a good argument that Charles Pierce was right back in 2012 — Scalia is retired, and he just keeps acting out the Suppreme Court Justice thing for his own amusement.

But I wondered about senility awhile back, when he made his infamous “moral feelings” comment

While speaking at Princeton University on Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia defended his legal writings after a gay student asked him “why he equates laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder,” according to the Associated Press.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective,” Scalia said. He added that legislative bodies can place bans on what they find to be immoral.

“It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the ‘reduction to the absurd,’” Scalia told Duncan Hosie, the freshman student who asked the question. “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

Beside the fact that this makes no sense, what do “moral feelings” have to do with law? But it’s been obvious for a while that Scalia doesn’t base his decisions on law, but on his own biases, and then he constructs a legal opinion to back up his biases. He pretty much admitted this in a Charlie Rose interview awhile back.

Corrupt, yes. A disgrace to the bench, yes. An opinionated blowhard, no question. But that doesn’t rule out the possibility of senility, too. No one else is saying this, but I’m saying it. It needs to be considered. Scalia is 78, I think, which means it is possible he could sit on the Court for a few more years, getting more and more demented, and causing more and more damage.

12 thoughts on “Is Scalia Getting Senile?

  1. “…he could sit on the Court for a few more years, getting more and more demented, and causing more and more damage.”

    And isn’t that the goal for Conservatives at each and every level of our judiciary?
    They love “activist judges” as long as they’re THEIR activist judges!

    Scalia is now the most famous and successful troll in America – because that’s exactly what he’s doing: TROLLING!
    He’s trolling the SCOTUS – and ALL of America!!!

    At this point, the pathetic old lump of flesh even looks like a troll.

  2. I make the case that he’s simply deliberately doing these things:

    A. Law clerks do the research even those times they don’t write the opinion the justice signs. It’s highly unlikely the law clerk would make this mistake innocently.

    B. The reduction to the absurd Scalia mentioned is not just any argument, it’s one of the classic logical fallacies. No one who is both intelligent and arguing honestly will make such an argument since it’s easy to see through.

    My conclusion is that his arrogance, combined with the fact that he’d have to be forced out if he doesn’t want to go, is why he figures he can get away with this crap. And that he’s consciously being dishonest in his work because he wants a result and figures no one can stop him.

  3. “Corrupt, yes. A disgrace to the bench, yes. An opinionated blowhard, no question”

    Why those are positive attributes of an activist right-wing judge no problem here. Being inconsistent is the wing-nut way, besides ruling against the EPA is always the right thing to do, even if it contradicts a previous opinion. The only people who care are those detail orientated Libruls anyway!

  4. Ah, but what did the Washington Times say about Whitman v. American Trucking Association? That is where Scalia gets his information these days.

  5. I put Scalia in the company of Donald Sterling. I have long suspected Scalia of being a dirty old man. They both demonstrate a dislike for minorities, etc. I wish he could be impeached; and, then, Obama could appoint a good liberal judge.

  6. I have long suspected Scalia of being a dirty old man.

    🙂 I guess when it comes to Clarence there’s no need for suspicions.

  7. Shorter Scalia:
    “I hate lots of stuff, and I hate that I have to make up legal excuses for hating stuff.”

  8. I don’t know if senility is Scalia’s problem..I suspect that when someone becomes overly impressed with themselves for their perceived intellectual prowess and they shut down the mechanisms to receive feedback because feedback isn’t worthy of their superior intellect.. Than they tend to go off course in their reasoning. Basically I think Scalia has exalted himself to the point where he thinks only he is capable of understanding the complexities of law. He’s probably more deluded than senile.

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