We've just confirmed an extraordinary bit of news from an unimpeachable but anonymous source: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will be featured on the CBS News show "60 Minutes" April 27 in connection with the publication the next day of the new book he has co-authored, called Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. Correspondent Lesley Stahl has spent considerable time interviewing Scalia in recent weeks about his life and career not just the book.
In the life of the Court and the career of Justice Scalia, this is a remarkable, Nixon-goes-to-China moment. No justice has excoriated the news media like Scalia has, and more than once he has said that judges are not supposed to be highly visible figures in the media.
Earlier in his tenure, when he gave a speech at a law school and an unsuspecting local television news crew showed up, Scalia would impetuously refuse to go on stage until the cameras left. In what has become known as the "Hattiesburg Incident" of 2004, deputy U.S. marshals ordered reporters to erase audiotape recordings of a speech Scalia was giving in Mississippi. The marshals believed they were enforcing Scalia's anti-press policies. Scalia apologized, and said his policies had been misunderstood.
But when the reporters lodged protests with the marshal's service, an internal investigation ensued. In a deposition taken during the investigation and later released under the Freedom of Information Act, one of the marshals quoted Scalia as saying, earlier in the day, "I hate the media, don't like the media, I don't know why they're here. I'm not talking to them." That same day, when the question of talking to local reporters came up, the marshal also quoted Scalia as saying, "I don't do interviews. I don't talk to the press." (Correction: A further check of the investigation documents indicates this last Scalia quote was reported by a journalist who overheard Scalia, not by one of the marshals.)
The "60 Minutes" appearance is the centerpiece of of a limited round of publicity Scalia will be doing to promote sales of the book he wrote with Bryan Garner. Garner is the legal writing expert whose company LawProse Inc. runs seminars for law firms around the country. The two decided to write the book after Garner interviewed Scalia and seven other justices about legal writing and advocacy last year. Those tapes are available on Garner's Web site here. C-SPAN announced Monday that Scalia would appear in a live exchange with high school students April 9 at 10 a.m. on C-SPAN3.
Scalia is not the first justice to appear on television to launch a book, by any means; just last year Justice Clarence Thomas's memoir My Grandfather's Son was published the day after a "60 Minutes" appearance. Current and former justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Stephen Breyer and William Rehnquist have also done televised interviews to publicize their works.
But for Scalia to join the trend after decades of disdaining this kind of attention is remarkable. He may have felt encouraged in a general sense by the lighter and more open leadership of the Court by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., which contrasts sharply with the cloistered style of Rehnquist, Roberts' predecessor. The 72-year-old Scalia may also have felt that at this stage in his life, the time has come to unburden himself and tell his story on a stage broader than the Supreme Court.
More details and reaction later when available.