Patterico's Pontifications


Scalia the Speed Demon and Oyez’s Upgrade (Update: An Iphone App)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 2:30 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Update: Check it out, an Iphone App. I don’t have an Iphone myself, so how about telling me in the comments what you think?

I admit I only found this story moderately amusing.  Having been in auto-accident-type situations which are scary at the time, but genuinely funny in hindsight (it’s a special moment when your insurance company asks you about an accident on a certain date and you have to say, “which one?”), I can appreciate that this story might be a little funny for us, but not so much for justice Scalia:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia seemed unusually subdued at the beginning of arguments Tuesday in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, waiting until the second half-hour – page 29 of the 56-page transcript — to ask his first question of the day. He is usually dominating the discussion well before that point.

Now a possible explanation has emerged: he had been in a car accident in Virginia just over an hour earlier while driving into work. News accounts called it minor, but it must have been unsettling; it involved four cars, and Scalia’s own car was towed away, according to a Washington Post account. The accident occurred just before 9 a.m., and he was on the bench by 10.

Scalia was given a ticket for following too closely behind the car in front of him. When that car stopped, Scalia rear-ended it, pushing it ahead into a chain reaction crash that dinged the two cars ahead of it. No one was injured.

At the Court, few were surprised to hear about the episode. Scalia, who turned 75 on March 11, has a reputation for having a lead foot that activates when he is running late getting to Court from his home in suburban Virginia. A skit by Court clerks once mocked his driving habits. And colleague Justice David Souter even joked during an oral argument about Scalia’s fast driving.

And a few years ago, apparently Justice Souter made a joke about Scalia’s speeding in oral argument.

Souter wanted to explore whether a passenger in these circumstances was free to leave or was effectively seized under the Fourth Amendment. He asked the lawyer for the defendant, Byron Warnken, “Let’s assume that the bright line rule allowed nothing more than requiring the passenger to get out of the car so that if the passenger then said, ‘I’ve had enough of this, I’m leaving,’ the passenger, so far as the bright line rule is concerned, would be allowed to go. Assume that.”

Scalia interrupted to add a humorous twist to the hypothetical: “In fact, the passenger says, ‘Thank goodness. This guy was speeding. I am so glad to get out of this car. Let me catch the nearest cab and go.”

At that point, Souter could not resist this retort: “You can see what Justice Scalia’s passengers tend to feel like.” Amid laughter, Souter reformulated the hypothetical. “Assuming that Justice Scalia is the one who has been stopped and it’s his passenger who is then free to go.”

But now here, is the tangentially cool part.  Go to the transcript, here.  Now first just press the play button under the transcript window and watch as the computer automatically follows the text as the words are said.  Then go down into the search box and search for the words “in fact, the passenger” just like that.  That should bring you right to the exchange mentioned in that story.  Now here’s where it gets cool.  Bring your mouse over those words and click on them.  If your browser works like mine, a “play” command will pop up.  Now, click on it, and the audio jumps to the exact moment in the transcript.

And, you can hear the whole joking exchange, which is made more ironic in hindsight.

That is all given to the public, for free, by  Which is very cool.  Not every transcript can do that, yet, but they seem to be working on it.  Yes, I have heard of (but not interacted with) these kinds of luxuries before, but this is being offered to the public, for free.

I would be surprised if the Supreme Court ever actually puts cameras in its courtrooms, and as a rule I tend to think that is wrong.  If the public has a right to see something, the cameras should, too.  But this is a pretty good substitute.

And of course they also have regular audio—including downloadable mp3’s—of many oral arguments.  Which is good for the aspiring lawyer, the law geek, or just the concerned citizen who wants to at least listen to the third branch in action.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

19 Responses to “Scalia the Speed Demon and Oyez’s Upgrade (Update: An Iphone App)”

  1. I would like cameras in the court, but with something like a 5 year wait before they can be released (and while nice in theory, probably not practical – tapes will be leaked).

    Darin H (c87df1)

  2. I really do find the humor of the Court to be quite indearing. The Federalist Society a couple of years ago did a little talk between Breyer and Scalia, and both were quite funny.

    “Justice Scalia, The new Chief Justice has said that he would like to see more unanimity in decisions… What do you say to that?”

    “Lots of luck.”

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  3. Also, what if Scalia decides to fight the ticket?

    Would YOU like to be the judge that has this guy in front of you?

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  4. Scott

    rear enders are kind of hopeless causes in traffic court.

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  5. Yeah, but just his standing there pro se would be scary as hell…

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  6. Aaron, I know you live in that general area. Is his daily commute part of your normal route?

    If so, be careful. Be very careful….

    Yeah, but just his standing there pro se would be scary as hell

    Not really. There are some differences between traffic court and Supreme Court, and most of them would tell against Justice Scalia. I wonder how long it’s been since he dealt with a traffic court case.
    And remember the adage about the person who has a fool for his client–I think the last thing anyone would call Justice Scalia is a fool.

    kishnevi (07cf78)

  7. Would YOU like to be the judge that has this guy in front of you?

    Yes. bwahahahahaa

    I am in favor of cameras in the Court the day Justice Kennedy retires. Actually, I’m in favor of cameras in the Court when we no longer have to worry about vanity and political pressure.

    Also, we need to make sure Scalia is driving a Volvo. It’s quite scary to think he is one car accident away from ruinous changes to my civil rights.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  8. kish

    I almost never actually go into D.C.

    and i am more scared of ginsberg. she is like, what? 100?

    Besides she is kinda bad@$$.

    (funny stuff at the link)

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  9. “That’s what his momma said” Too funny.

    Felipe (d37996)

  10. Well, I did as Aaron suggested, and I ended up listening to the entire session. It is very cool! For me, the audio brought the case alive. I, too, found the humor endearing.

    Felipe (d37996)

  11. Felipe

    Scalia is a genuinely funny guy. And frankly they all do a good job of making you feel that they are taking this stuff seriously. i mean you might get all cynical and think this is just a performance, but there you go.

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  12. Something I don’t think people get is how close-knit they all are. I think it was Breyer that said he’s never hear a mean-spirited thing said between the Justices, even in jest.

    In that same conversation I referred to above, the old Scalia missquote about “people who believe in a living Constitution are stupid” came up, and after he corrected it, it was along the lines of:

    “Would you ever say that another Justice is foolish for believing in a changing document?”

    “Never to their face…”

    And you hear Breyer laugh

    I mean, Scalia and Ginsberg go fly fishing together, and didn’t he and Kagan go to the gun range together?

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  13. I would like to say something that involves Bawney Fwank and rear enders but i will keep it to myself.

    DohBiden (984d23)

  14. Scalia and Uncle Thomas show their crass meanness (and disregard for justice) once again:

    You won’t talk about it, Aaron, will you?

    Zoubida (0692b1)

  15. As opposed to being a dishonest cowardly twatwaffle, like yourself “zoobida” ?

    JD (822109)

  16. Yelverton really is a nasty lying twist. Stating Dalia’s hyper-partisan critique as fact and referring to a Judge as Uncle Thomas is par for the course for that hack lute player.

    JD (822109)

  17. I like how Herr Dahlia has no problem with federal funding for planned parenthood but has a problem with executing those who commit capital murder.

    Piss off Yelverton

    DohBiden (984d23)

  18. Racism must be a required element of Yelverton’s curriculum.

    daleyrocks (9b57b3)

  19. @DohBiden:

    “I like how Herr Dahlia has no problem with federal funding for planned parenthood but has a problem with executing those who commit capital murder.”

    The man was found non-guilty, you idiot.

    Zoubida (0692b1)

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