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CBS Legal Analyst Tells Scalia to Drop the ‘Bully Routine’

Posted Feb 5, 2009 12:22 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Archive photo of Antonin Scalia.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen dubs U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “Justice Nasty” in a strongly worded opinion column about a recent incident in which Scalia chastised a college student for asking him about cameras in the courtroom.

“Scalia’s famous temper is often discussed in legal circles as an indelible part of his forceful personality, as if it were a mole on his cheek or the accent that rolls off his tongue,” Cohen writes at CBSNews.com. “Whenever he acts like a jerk, and that is a relatively common occurrence for a man who works within the semi-secret world of the high court, we are told by his sycophants that he doesn’t suffer fools gladly and that he has earned the right to be rude.”

Cohen disagrees. “Whatever you think about Scalia’s jurisprudence, his bully routine is getting old,” he writes.

Cohen is commenting on an exchange that took place between Scalia and political science major Sarah Jeck at a Florida luncheon that was partly a promotional tour for Scalia’s book, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.

Jeck asked why cameras are banned at the Supreme Court, even though court hearings are open, transcripts are provided and justices “go out on book tours.”

"Read the next question," Scalia reportedly replied. "That's a nasty, impolite question." He later addressed the issue, saying he believes the media will distort oral arguments with “30-second takeouts."

Cohen says the question was legitimate. “I want my Supreme Court Justices to be polite, even humble, even though we all know they are smarter than the rest of us,” he writes. “I want to see learned men and women in the law treating students with respect and courtesy. And I want a frank discussion about cameras in courtrooms instead of knee-jerk reactions.”

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