C-SPAN has posted the transcript here of Brian Lamb's recent interview with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the latest event in Scalia's tour to publicize the book he has co-written with Bryan Garner.
Among the remarkable aspects of the interview is Scalia's explanation, finally, for why he has decided to abandon his often-stated view that common-law judges should hide in the tall grass and not seek publicity.
After Lamb asks Scalia about the popular Green Bag bobblehead of Scalia, and the various T-shirts on sale that use his name, Scalia says, with an air of resignation: "Well, frankly, Brian, that’s one reason I’ve sort of come out of the closet and in recent months done more interviews and allowed my talks to be televised more than I did formerly. I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that the old common law tradition of judges not making public spectacles of themselves and hiding in the grass has just broken down. It’s no use, I’m going to be a public spectacle whether I come out of the closet or not, beyond T-shirts and bobblehead dolls and what-not. So if, you know, if I am going to be a public figure, I guess the public may as well get their notion of me firsthand rather than filtered through people such as Brian Lamb, you know."
That swipe at Lamb, by the way, was in jest. The two have been friends since they worked together in the Nixon administration in the early 1970s, and Scalia joshingly told Lamb he doesn't need to address him as "Justice." But Lamb, correct to a fault, would not give in to excess familiarity.
Another notable Scalia comment from the interview had to do with the Supreme Court bar or its non-existence, in his view. Lamb showed Scalia a clip from an interview he gave in 1986, before he joined the Supreme Court. Then a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Scalia praised the quality of the specialized lawyers who argued before him on energy, labor, or communications issues.
After the clip was over, Lamb asked Scalia about the lawyering he sees on the U.S. Supreme Court. Scalia opined, "This court, the Supreme Court, does not have a very specialized bar. A vast majority of cases are argued by lawyers from all around the country who have never appeared before the Supreme Court before, some of whom have probably never appeared before a federal appellate court before, and so I cannot overall, I think the quality is probably better on the D.C. Circuit, but even so, I am all in all more impressed by the quality of the lawyers that appear before us than I am discouraged by their lack of competence."
Vast majority? Georgetown University Law Center prof Richard Lazarus in his important study of the Supreme Court bar, first reported here, found that last term 58 percent of the advocates (excluding those from the solicitor general's office) who argued before the Court were veterans lawyers with five or more arguments under their belt. He also found that a whopping 44 percent of the cases the Court heard last term were brought by Supreme Court veterans.