Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: Joan Biskupic's Biography of Justice Scalia, "American Original"

Slate Magazine: The Alienator, by Emily Bazelon:

Making sense of Justice Scalia's personality—and his theory.

Scalia In Joan Biskupic's new biography of Antonin Scalia, American Original, the justice wears a wreath of superlatives. He is the most quoted member of the Supreme Court and the one scholars write about most. He is the justice who writes the most concurrences—separate opinions that accept the holding of a majority opinion but usually part company with its reasoning. He is also the justice who prompts the most laughter at oral argument, according to two bona fide studies. Court observers pick Scalia as the most talkative. He disagrees with that one. They would probably call him the most argumentative. And he'd disagree with that, too.

Here's my superlative, to add to the pile: Scalia is the justice liberals most love to hate and conservatives most love. He is also the only justice to use the Sicilian finger flick in public or to say "quack quack" during a speech (after he was asked to recuse himself from a case in which Dick Cheney was the named plaintiff, because he'd gone duck hunting with the vice president). As Biskupic says, her subject is "a showman, a streetwise guy, and a pulverizer." The more I read about his penchant for battle, and in particular about his unrelenting pattern of pushing away other justices at critical moments, rather than compromising to win a majority, another label occurred to me: the alienator. . . .

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