Supreme Court Justices Weigh In On Media Coverage, Part One

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and raised a critique about the press that is rarely discussed, but nonetheless accurate. He said that one of the most “difficult parts” of his job is being in the position of having to absorb the press and public’s criticism of court decisions without any ability to respond or defend the decision. From The New York Times:

“Usually, the criticism in the press and the reaction of the public to the opinion has nothing to do with the law,” Scalia said. “If they like the result, it’s a wonderful opinion and these are wonderful judges, and if they dislike the result, then it’s a terrible opinion. They don’t look to see what the text of the statute is that was before us, and whether this result is indeed a reasonable interpretation of that. None of that will appear in the press reports.”

Love him or hate him, Justice Scalia is right. As we have previously observed in this space, a proper critique of any high court decision must be based on the legal reasoning set forth in the opinion, not one’s gut feeling or political view of the ultimate result. Legal reasoning involves the application of law to facts, and the proper operation of judicial decision-making can, and does, lead to political anomalies.

Just ask Justice Scalia, who is a hero to conservatives, but who also joined the majority opinion of Justice William Brennan (generally considered a liberal stalwart) in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), where the Justices held that state laws banning flag burning were unconstitutional.

Posted: 10/21/2011 2:07:56 PM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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