In his remarkable appearance on "60 Minutes" just ended, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia acknowledged he has had "down times" on the bench, periods when he felt he was repeating himself in dissents and unable to move Court doctrine. It was Scalia's first extended broadcast interview in his 22 years on the Court
In one of the more dramatic moments during the segment, CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl read from Scalia's 1996 letter written to the late Justice Harry Blackmun in which he voiced his melancholy about the preceding term a term that had produced Romer v. Evans, a victory for gay rights advocates, and United States v. Virginia, which said the state-run Virginia Military Institute could not admit only males.
Scalia said he "hadn't remembered" writing the letter, which is included in the Blackmun papers at the Library of Congress. But he did say that the final months of a Supreme Court term are "usually a disappointment." He also said the situation, from his point of view, was "less dire in more recent years."
When he first joined the Court in 1986, Scalia said he planned to leave the Court "as soon as I could," when he turned 65 and could retire at full pay. But now at 72 and "working for free," Scalia says he is not thinking about retiring any longer. "I can't think what I would do for an encore."
Scalia's tenor during the lengthy segment was, by turns, wary, gently combative, and downright gleeful, as Stahl asked him about his originalism, his religion, and his upbringing in Elmhurst, Queen, in New York City. When Stahl pointed out Scalia was an only child, "Scalia said, "Come on, lay off. Yes, I was spoiled." The two visited his neighborhood and even P.S. 13, his elementary school, where he was shown his perfect report cards. His wife Maureen, whom he married in 1960, also appears briefly. If she had married anyone else, she said, "I would have been bored." Justice Scalia added, "Whatever my faults are, I'm not wishy-washy."
It was an overall positive piece, with Scalia's charming side in full display. The segment also spent some time on the book he coauthored, titled, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, which was the occasion for the interview. Co-author Bryan Garner recounted how suprisingly deferential Scalia was during the writing.