Supreme Curt justice Antonin Scalia spoke to the New York City Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society today at the New York Athletic Club.An attendee send us his notes.
Because of the nature of the crowd (law students, practicing attorneys and academics), some of the questions veered more towards practice.
Here are some highlights
1. When asked about the citing of the Declaration of Independence in court cases, Scalia replied that it was a political text and had no legal precedent. He cited the language “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and noted they were too abstract to be considered law.
2. He had several questions directed to administrative law and noted that statutes could be interpreted by administrative agencies well outside of their meaning
3. In discussing originalism, he stated that before he was on the court originalism was not even taught in law school and now it is becoming more commonplace in jurispriudence with three originalist faculty members on Harvard
4. On the vastness of the law and whether it has gone too far, and this is interesting, he noted that because of all the laws, we are having a talent suck towards the law that we don’t need. He indicated that there were individuals whose talents could be utilized better elsewhere, but because of the bonuses and the industry there are too many people going towards the law. Loosely paraphrased “my second year clerks get a 280k signing bonus and make more than I do when they get out of clerking”
5. On the prestige of the court, he noted that the court is the most prestigious branch of government and it will remain that way because of lifetime appointments. Even if there is an angry mob outside, the court must rule fearlessly according to the rule of law
6. On legislative histories. Scalia is against reviewing committee hearings to divine legislative intent. He noted however, that it is important to look at historical context of the smartest thinkers of the time to divine meaning at a certain temporal period. He noted that the federalist papers are not to be used as originalist text and John Jay was not at the constitutional convention but he could reference them to review the thoughts of leading thinkers.
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