Monday, March 16, 2015
As U.C. Irvine’s Professor Richard Hasen demonstrates in a recent Green Bag piece, Justice Antonin Scalia is by far the most sarcastic U.S. Supreme Court justice. Between 1986 and 2013, commentators have referred to his opinions as “sarcastic” or “caustic” seventy-five times. The nearest contender was Justice Stevens, who was so labeled a mere nine times. Even when years on the court are corrected for, Scalia stand out as the most sarcastic. Hasen notes that most of the sarcasm is directed against colleagues on the court and appears in dissenting opinions.
What does Hasen make of this? Justice Scalia has said he writes his dissents for law students, and Hasen says his students do indeed prefer Scalia’s breezy style. But Hasen also notes Dean Erwin Chemerinsky’s concern that Scalia's sarcasm may be teaching law students to “act uncivilly in formal legal settings.”