Has Antonin Scalia Recused Himself from Reality?

Last Wednesday, during a speech to high school students in Mississippi, Antonin Scalia demanded that two reporters erase recordings of his talk — about the Constitution! The Supreme Court justice has a long-standing policy of not allowing his appearances to be televised, yet did not warn recording devices were verböten.

Scalia is not a fan of free speech — this isn’t news. His bizarre and contradictory nature, however, has me scratching my head. This guy decides the most important First Amendment cases in the nation and he can’t handle people taping him at a high school?

Scalia’s lame lip service to the Constitution is even more ironic. “The Constitution of the United States is extraordinary and amazing,” he commented during his speech. “People just don’t revere it like they used to.”

It’s hard to do so when its defenders find it beneath themselves to adhere to the Bill of Rights. Fair and accurate reporting can only take place with a clear record of what was said. Does Scalia prefer people try to commit his speech to memory and pray they get it right? Likewise, as the very definition of a public figure, does he honestly expect any level of privacy in his life? As a Supreme Court Justice, shouldn’t the people be allowed to tape and examine everything he says to a crowded auditorium?

Scalia is a paid public servant appointed to one of the highest positions in the country. Everything he says and every stance he takes have major ramifications for the United States. While I can’t expect a person to be completely objective, knowing his opinions is very important to me. At the very least, I, as his employer, am entitled to know his public policy. A high school speech would hardly be risqué.

At the same time, reporters invited to an event with no recording restrictions should not and cannot be told to delete Scalia’s audio. The digital recording device was physically taken from one reporter’s hand by a deputy federal marshal until she hesitantly pointed out how to remove the speech from the disk.

“I specifically asked for protocol and was told that the media would have access to Justice Scalia during the reception,” spokewoman Jeanna Graves wrote in response to the incident, adding that she was “embarrassed and angry.”

Guess what, Jeanna — when you’re dealing with a hypocritical media recluse like Antonin Scalia, all bets are off. This is, after all, a guy who accepted an award for supporting free speech while simultaneously denying access to broadcasters to the event!

For Scalia to even give a speech upholding the values of the Constitution does a grave injustice to the people who crafted the document, and to those who continue believe that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (along with all the other rights accorded therein) are a roadmap and not a roadblock.

This brings me to Scalia’s refusal to recuse himself from the forthcoming tête-à-tête between the People and Dick Cheney. Cheney’s a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream as it is, and his appearance before the Supreme Court over the secrecy of his Energy Task Force meetings (meetings that planned Iraq as an energy resource over a year before the invasion) will be highly monitored. Dick Cheney is also a longtime friend of Scalia’s. They frequently dine together and went duck hunting in January, three weeks after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the vice president’s appeal to various lawsuits.

“While judges should not be isolated from the society in which they live, they must take special care that their extra-judicial activities do not create a conflict with their judicial duties,” wrote senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in a letter on court ethics. Going on trips with high-profile politicians that have pending cases is seen as bad form among even our corrupt Congress, Tony.

Federal law states that “any justice or judge shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be questioned.” Scalia was appointed by Cheney’s friend Ronald Reagan. He was also instrumental in the landmark (and unconstitutional) 2000 election decision to declare George W. Bush president of the United States. These two things alone call Scalia’s impartiality into question. That he is also a close personal friend of the defendant should make it obvious that his decision is biased from the outset. As a supposed proponent of the Constitution, Scalia should realize the Sixth Amendment trumps his ego.

Should we be forced to accept Scalia as an agent of the Court until he feels ready to retire? This is just one Justice of nine, and in this piece alone he’s shown disregard for two of the most important keystones our country was founded on. Can we trust a man to interpret the Constitution when it’s apparent he’s in favor of disregarding it?

Scalia is quoted as saying “the Constitution just sets minimums. Most of the rights that you enjoy go way beyond what the Constitution requires.” Essentially, because many of our modern rights aren’t expressly written about in the Bill of Rights they’re optional. That’s some incisive analyis!

Know what else is incisive? Scalia and the rest of the Supreme Court voting the Fourth Amendment was also optional when they decided police can detain and search you without probable cause.

Antonin Scalia has said most of his time is spent thinking about the Constitution, calling it “a brilliant piece of work.” And it is when it isn’t in the process of being redlined by partisan, reactionary idiots.

You’ve lost it, Tony.