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Monday, April 28, 2008

Scalia (predictably) held his own in '60 Minutes' interview

The "6o Minutes" interview with Antonin Scalia last night was worth watching. Scalia lived up to his reputation as being intelligent, stubborn and charming. Anyone who follows the U.S. Supreme Court knows that he is the justice who garners the most laughs from the people in the high court's gallery with his witty, though sometimes biting, observations. He is definitely not someone you would want to appear in front of unprepared (although, admittedly, the chances any lawyer would go before a U.S. Supreme Court justice unprepared are fairly minuscule).

Yet, Leslie Stahl's researchers seem to have made a pretty big gaffe on the topic of torture. Stahl asked Scalia how he could believe that torture did not constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" under the U.S. Constitution. Scalia tried to explain that torture is not used for punishment, but to extract information, and, because it is not "punishment," that particular provision does not apply. (The debate on torture centers on human rights treaties, not the 8th Amendment.) However, Stahl kept pressing Scalia on this one point, as if it was the justice who didn't get it. After Scalia made several stabs at clarifying the constitutional point, it became obvious Stahl wasn't hearing him. He promptly ended the discussion and moved on.

That one part aside, I thought it was a decent interview. I don't know if I liked it enough to go buy the recently released book Scalia co-authored with legal writing guru Bryan A. Garner, "Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges." It would certainly be worth picking up if you are going to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. Personally, I would have been more interested in reading Scalia's autobiography. I mean if Clarence Thomas, who never says a word on the bench, can write one, why can't Scalia?


Peter said...

Well said. I half expected him to look into the camera and do the SNL character Nathan Thurm.

"Is it me? It's her, right?"


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

If, like me, you were too busy to catch the broadcast Sunday night and too disorganized to tape it, the transcript and complete video are available here.