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The Soundbite Justice


“Some law professors and even a larger number of journalists praised Scalia for his literary style. That style isn’t as distinctive as it seems at first. Certainly it’s distinctive among Supreme Court justices. But everyone has heard Scalia’s style. It’s the sound bite style of Crossfire, highly quotable, reducing complex issues to simple–and often misleading–phrases.”  — Mark Tushnet, A Court Divided.


“Today the Court affirms what is perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our Nation’s history: an order requiring California to release the staggering number of 46,000 convicted criminals.

There comes before us, now and then, a case whose proper outcome is so clearly indicated by tradition and common sense, that its decision ought to shape the law, rather than vice versa. One would think that, before allowing the decree of a federal district court to release 46,000 convicted felons, this Court would bend every effort to read the law in such a way as to avoid that outrageous result. Today, quite to the contrary, the Court disregards stringently drawn provisions of the governing statute, and traditional constitutional limitations upon the power of a federal judge, in order to uphold the absurd.
The proceedings that led to this result were a judicial travesty…


It is also worth noting the peculiarity that the vast majority of inmates most generously rewarded by the re-lease order—the 46,000 whose incarceration will be ended—do not form part of any aggrieved class even under the Court’s expansive notion of constitutional violation. Most of them will not be prisoners with medical conditions or severe mental illness; and many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”   — Scalia, in Brown v. Plata.

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