Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Stephen Carter’s Wonderful Review of Scalia Speaks

A friend has just called to my attention Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter’s wonderful review of Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived, the New York Times bestselling collection of speeches by Justice Scalia that his son Chris and I co-edited. I’m embarrassed to say that I somehow missed the review when it was published way back in December 2017. (Either that, or my memory and Google searches are failing me.)

Here are some excerpts from the review, which Carter calls “a fascinating look into the thinking of the most influential justice of recent times”:

Scalia was a great believer in writing clearly — an ability every jurist should possess. So much of what nowadays passes for judicial reasoning is shapeless and obscure; many an opinion lauded by partisans on one side or the other is, analytically, a hopeless mess. In accepting the lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Legal Writers, Scalia explains, correctly, that the most important ingredients of good writing are “time and sweat.”

Exactly. Disagree with Scalia if you like, but his opinions always sparkle. So do the speeches collected here. Brilliance and erudition leap from the pages, and it’s easy to see why Scalia, agree with him or not, will likely go down in history as one of the greats. We meet Scalia the philosopher, Scalia the humorist, Scalia the devout Catholic. Just as important, we meet a jurist who is able to state his philosophy with clarity and verve….

Liberal presidents should not be trying to fill the courts with little lefties, and conservative presidents should not be trying to fill the courts with little righties. Rather, both should be seeking jurists who care about craft and principle, whose reasoning is sharp and transparent, and whose sense of history and process never allows them to forget the norms of their profession. They should, in short, be searching for little Scalias.

While I’m at it, allow me to remind you that the third volume in the trilogy of Scalia work that I’ve co-edited—The Essential Scalia: On the Constitution, the Courts, and the Rule of Law—will be published on September 15 and is available for pre-order now. My co-editor for this volume is Sixth Circuit judge Jeffrey Sutton, who has also written an excellent introduction. The volume also features a beautiful foreword by Justice Elena Kagan. If you want to encounter Justice Scalia’s great legal mind in action, from broad questions about legal interpretation to specific disputes over constitutional provisions, this is the book for you.

In case you’ve forgotten, the second volume is On Faith: Lessons from an American Believer (which I describe more fully here).

Most Popular

Education

The Shame of the Teachers’ Unions

No other group has shown as much contempt for its own work during the coronavirus crisis as teachers. Their unions are actively fighting to keep kids out of the classroom and also to limit remote instruction, lest it require too much time and attention from people who are supposed to be wholly devoted to ... Read More
Education

The Shame of the Teachers’ Unions

No other group has shown as much contempt for its own work during the coronavirus crisis as teachers. Their unions are actively fighting to keep kids out of the classroom and also to limit remote instruction, lest it require too much time and attention from people who are supposed to be wholly devoted to ... Read More

What or Who Decides This Election?

We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More

What or Who Decides This Election?

We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More
Elections

The Burning Times

Welcome to The Tuesday, a weekly newsletter about politics, language, culture, pedantry, partisan pyromania, and suchlike. The Right loves a factional brawl, and the past week brought a pentagonic crossfire between Peggy Noonan, Mona Charen, Charlie Sykes, Ramesh Ponnuru, and David French, five right-leaning ... Read More
Elections

The Burning Times

Welcome to The Tuesday, a weekly newsletter about politics, language, culture, pedantry, partisan pyromania, and suchlike. The Right loves a factional brawl, and the past week brought a pentagonic crossfire between Peggy Noonan, Mona Charen, Charlie Sykes, Ramesh Ponnuru, and David French, five right-leaning ... Read More