The Writing of the Next Supreme Court Justice

February 1, 2017

I have a confession. Sometimes I find legal rulings really interesting to read. Justice Antonin Scalia’s rulings were phenomenal for their logic and their superb writing. He could fillet his fellow justices with humor and some very pointed commentary.

 

Like this one for example, “The Court’s argument that state officials have “coerced” students to take part in the invocation and benediction at graduation ceremonies is, not to put too fine a point on it, incoherent.” (1)

 

And this one, “It is not too much to say that this approach to the litigation has rendered the trial a sham. But treating the evidence as irrelevant is absolutely necessary for the Court to reach its conclusion.” (2)

 

And this one too, “‘The operation was a success, but the patient died.’ What such a procedure is to medicine, the Court’s opinion in this case is to law.” (3)

 

After Justice Scalia’s death of course the nation has been on edge about the next Justice. Tonight President Trump nominated Justice Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s spot on the court. This is a great pick for a number of reasons, not the least of which is he is an excellent writer. In the case of a kid that burped in gym class and was arrested (yes, you read that right) that came before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Gorsuch dissented from the majority opinion. In his dissenting opinion, which can be found online here, he wrote this magnificent paragraph:

 

“Often enough the law can be “a ass — a idiot,” Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist 520 (Dodd, Mead & Co. 1941) (1838) — and there is little we judges can do about it, for it is (or should be) emphatically our job to apply, not rewrite, the law enacted by the people’s representatives. Indeed, a judge who likes every result he reaches is very likely a bad judge, reaching for results he prefers rather than those the law compels. So it is I admire my colleagues today, for no doubt they reach a result they dislike but believe the law demands — and in that I see the best of our profession and much to admire. It’s only that, in this particular case, I don’t believe the law happens to be quite as much of a ass as they do. I respectfully dissent.”

 

Of course we would all do well to remember the words of President Abraham Lincoln who had this to say about the Supreme Court in his first inaugural address:

 

"The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, . . . the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."

 

 

 

 

 

(1) Scalia, Antonin. Scalia Dissents: Writings of the Supreme Court's Wittiest, Most Outspoken Justice (p. 178). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

(2) Scalia, Antonin. Scalia Dissents: Writings of the Supreme Court's Wittiest, Most Outspoken Justice (p. 216). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

(3) Scalia, Antonin. Scalia Dissents: Writings of the Supreme Court's Wittiest, Most Outspoken Justice (p. 267). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

 

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