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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Justice at the podium

Justice Scalia's speeches are causing a ruckus again. This time federal marshals confiscated and erased tapes that two reporters were making of one of his addresses. Since Scalia has long forbidden recording of his public talks, the marshals apparently felt they were doing what he wanted.

Today we learn that Scalia did not approve of the confiscation. He apologized to the reporters involved. And now apparently he will allow taping so that print media types can use the tapes to verify any quotations they are planning to use. But taping by radio, television and other electronic media will still be forbidden -- especially if they intend to play any part of the tape on the air.

So now the electronic media is up in arms, claiming that Scalia's distinction violates their First Amendment rights.

First the Pledge of Allegiance recusal, now this. I think the justice's best course might be to open his future speeches up for broadcast, or to take a break from giving them for a while.

Comments (11)

There is no 'First Amendment' right for listening. Period. The First Amendment only allows folks to talk if they want. The 'electronic media' needs to quit whining about this.

Is Scalia's decision a curious or distasteful one? Perhaps. Does it go against 'tradition' or precedent? Somewhat, but that depends on whether include all citizens of the US, or only government workers.

But Scalia's decision is not illegal. And far from a 'Constitutional issue'.

I agree there is no First Amendment right to listen. However, I think the real concern is what right do the Justices or their minions have to confiscate recording devices.

Furthermore, Scalia's behavior, as of late, has become a little disconcerting.

What right does security at a pop-music concert have to seize your equipment if they see it inside a performance? Same thing.

What behaviors of Scalia, exactly, are you referring to?

In a concert there are explicit rules, spelled out before the show, prohibitting any recording devices. And even then, most reporters are allowed to record the event.

In Scalia's case, (and maybe I have the facts wrong), he saw the reporters sit down and then half way through the speech demanded their recording devices. And hey, there is probably some law granting him this right. I just find it strange that he refuses to let his speeches be recorded.

As for specific behavior. Well, commenting on the school prayer case before it was adjudicated by the Supreme Court wasn't very professional. Going on vacation with the key member in a future court case isn't very professional. And seizing recording devices from reporters during a speech is troublesome to say the least. Legal, maybe. But still a little disconcerting.

While I don't agree with Scalia, I find his articulate conservative opinion refreshing. His arguments are always very well laid out, and he brings up points that many people overlook. I just think a couple of months without being in the limelight might be in order here.

I missed his vacation deal, what case was that? I'm not being dense here, I live in Japan - so I've missed some recent news.

Apparently, Scalia went on a duck hunting trip with Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney is a defendant in an upcoming environmental case brought by the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club asked for Scalia's recusal and he refused. I actually think Scalia was right not to recuse himself, and I don't think duck hunting with Cheney jeopardizes the case. I just wish Scalia would excercise a little better judgement.

Japan, huh. Never been there, but after watching "Lost in Translation" I've been dying to visit Tokyo.

Are you on your mission?

Leaving the duck hunting aside, Justin made the right distinction here: there's a substantive difference between security goons at a Counting Crows concert and federal marshals at a lecture given by a Supreme Court justice. And at the risk of people thinking I do nothing but read Slate.com, here's Dahlia Lithwick on just this topic:

Yeah, Scalia's incident (at best) seems to be: the marshalls got carried away with forbidding folks to record stuff. At the same time, reporters have no right to record things simply because they are 'of the press'. A disturbing incident, kinda. Illegal? I'm still not convinced. Bottom line - if the rules say 'no recording' - that means 'no recording'. Period.

Matt - I just skimmed the article on Slate. I am reminded of a court-case which I was on jury-selection for not-so-long ago (in PDX, natch). The judge said we jurors couldn't bring in any books if we were on the jury.

WTF? No dictionary? The prohibition against something as simple as a dictionary is pretty silly to me. And given that a lawyer may use some terms that go above the jurors selected for a trial (insert comments here), forbidding any books seems silly. And the fact that I can't bring in a copy of the constitution (or a copy of state law, to boot) seems curious to me (at the least).

Justin - Cheney a defendant in a Sierra Club lawsuit? That seems extreme. What does the VP have to do with an environmental lawsuit? If I had a bac PC made by Hewlett-Packard, I wouldn't take Ms. Fiorna to court.

Me in Japan? No mission, just teaching english. A nice change of pace from the USA. The pay is horrendously low, but the rest of life here is great.

I haven't seen 'Lost in Translation' yet. But what I've heard so far it seems that the reviewers were pretty quick to kiss the *ss of anyone with a last name of Coppola. A nice movie, to be sure. But the specifics of the city seem to have little to do with the movie. Set the movie in Rome, Moscow, or Sri Lanka and you've got the same effect.

Having said that, the few Japanese reviewers I've read are pretty pissed - it seems the movie pretty well summarrized a few Japanese stereotypes.

This is off topic but...

In retrospect, Lost In Translation (LIT) does perpetuate Japanese stereotypes. But its just a movie, so I don't really have a problem with it. And, I still thought the city looked cool. Also watch the film, because I don't think it would work in any other city in the world.

The problem with LIT is that it received too much praise. And thus failed to live up to people's expectations. However, for a movie about jetlag, I thought Coppola pulled it off.

Nonetheless, Bill Murray is the most underrated actor in the world. He was priceless in "Rushmore" and "Groundhog Day." And I hope one day he wins that elusive Oscar...

More off topic.....

One reviewer said, "I'll miss them" - speaking of the characters. I still haven't seen the movie (imagine, it's not shown in japan....), but I get the feeling that the bits of the movie about the 2 main characters is actually pretty interesting.

On the flip-side, another review commented along the lines of: At the same time, it's hard to relate to the complaints of 2 folks who can afford (or be afforded to) lodge at the spendiest hotel in Tokyo. They got problems? Fine, but when you are bored in fancy digs - those are nice problems.

Back to Ms. Coppola - I'm curious if she can actually do something as good next time.

And kudos to Bill Murray. His lack-of-an-Oscar is reason enough to start yet another awards show....Just so he can get a freakin' trophy already.


The Cheney case arose out of the Sierra Club's efforts to force disclosure of the membership of and deliberations of Cheney's "Energy Task Force" at the beginning of the administration. It's a right-of-access case, not an environmental case per se.

And as a trial lawyer, I can tell you that the reason for the nobooks/statutes/Constitution rule in the jury room is that the jury's factfinding process is supposed to take place in a vacuum filled only by the evidence received during the trial and the judge's instructions as to the law. Courts don't want jurors bringing in statutes or caselaw and deciding for themselves what the governing law is. This is often a sensible practice, as allowing too much free-thinking by jurors may inject into cases issues already taken out by the parties through settlement, motion practice, etc. On the other hand, not getting full information is consistently one of the things people report as being most frustrating about jury service.

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