Antonin Scalia has just turned 75, says Linda Greenhouse in The New York Times, and the conservative Supreme Court justice remains as "dyspeptic" as ever. In a recent dissenting argument, Scalia blasted a majority opinion written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor as a "gross distortion of the facts," "utter nonsense," and "unprincipled," among other choice phrases. This latest outburst is in keeping with a long history of such withering opinions aimed at his colleagues. Why is he such a bully? Here, an excerpt:
I can't think of an example of one of Justice Scalia's bomb-throwing opinions ever enticing a wavering colleague to come over to his corner. ...
So the question raised by Justice Scalia's most recent intemperate display remains: What does this smart, rhetorically gifted man think his bullying accomplishes?
It's a puzzle. But having raised the question, I will venture an answer. Antonin Scalia, approaching his 25th anniversary as a Supreme Court justice, has cast a long shadow but has accomplished surprisingly little. Nearly every time he has come close to achieving one of his jurisprudential goals, his colleagues have either hung back at the last minute or, feeling buyer's remorse, retreated at the next opportunity.