Scalia Hits Media Reporting on Cases

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By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ripped the newsmedia Saturday in a talk .on the judiciary sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation. He also dismissed the idea of judicial independence as an absolute virtue.

“You talk about independence as though it is unquestionably and unqualifiably a good thing,” Scalia said. “It may not be. It depends on what your courts are doing….The more your courts become policy-makers, the less sense it makes to have them entirely independent.”

Scalia expressed disdain for the news media and the general reading public and suggested that together they condone inaccurate portrayals of federal judges and courts. “The press is never going to report judicial opinions accurately,” he said.

“They’re just going to report, who is the plaintiff? Was that a nice little old lady? And who is the defendant? Was this, you know, some scuzzy guy? And who won? Was it the good guy that won or the bad guy?”

Scalia complained that people understand the courts through a news media that typically oversimplifies and sensationalizes. He said people’s ability to amplify their comments globally about judges and their opinions on the Internet takes a toll on the judiciary.

“This is not just like somebody handing out a leaflet in the past, where a small number of people can see this,” he said. “This is available to the world. … It changes what it means to be a judge. It certainly changes the attractiveness of a judicial career.”

About 400 people turned out at the Hilton Washington hotel to hear the talk. William Sessions, a former FBI director and federal judge, and Lynn Battaglia, a Maryland appeals court judge, also spoke. Scalia’s glib remarks and dry wit often drew laughter or applause.

Scalia said: “I think what Justice Alito says about being careful about, you know … be nice to your judge. Take a judge to lunch. No, you can’t do that.”

Later, Scalia observed, “It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional.”

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