Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle

The U.S. Supreme Court

The Justices swear (no pun intended) that their working relationships are respectful and cordial, and Justice Breyer claims that in his entire time on the Supreme Court he has never heard a voice raised in anger.

Even so, I'm finding that in some of their opinions it's difficult not to read plenty of interpersonal drama between the lines :)

If the Supreme Court were a novel, Justice Scalia would undoubtedly be its protagonist: his opinions (and even more so his dissents) seem to be more strongly and colorfully worded than anyone else's, he participates enthusiastically in oral arguments, and with the possible exception of Justice Thomas (who doesn't participate in oral arguments at all) he has the judicial philosophy that's both the easiest to explain AND the most unwavering. As a result, the Court often seems defined either through action by him or reaction to him.

From there, Justice Scalia seems to reserve his greatest scorn for Justice Stevens: in reading Scalia's majority opinion in the recent gun control case (DC v. Heller) it's difficult not to form an impression that Scalia sees Stevens as some kind of doddering old fool.

However, it's interesting to contrast Scalia's attitude toward Justice Stevens (or at least Justice Stevens' arguments) with his attitude toward Justice Breyer. As far as I can tell in terms of judicial philosophy Stevens and Breyer are both on the opposite side of Scalia, but Scalia actually seems to respect Breyer quite a bit more: the analogy that comes to mind is the grudging respect the head of MI-6 had for his Soviet counterpart in the old James Bond movies.

The one Justice with a different judicial philosophy whom I've yet to see Scalia take on is Justice Souter (my personal favorite for a variety of reasons). That's probably because favoring precedent isn't that far away from favoring pure textual analysis, but I like to think it's because Souter's arguments are so air tight :)
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