Monday, December 13, 2004

Former Governor/Presidential Candidate Howard Dean Says Scalia "Sarcastic and Mean-Spirited."

Yesterday, (12/12), former Vermont Governor Howard Dean appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press." He had the following exchange with Tim Russert about Justice Scalia's judicial temperament:

"MR. RUSSERT: Harry Reid, the new leader of the Democrats, was on the MEET THE PRESS last week, and he said he would be open to Antonin Scalia being appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court. There may be some ethical problems, he said. If he could get by those, he was very much impressed by the brilliance of his mind.
DR. DEAN: Well, first of all, I like Harry Reid a lot. He's a straight shooter, and I think he's going to be a good leader. I disagree with him on this one. I think Antonin Scalia ought not to be on the Supreme Court let alone chief justice because I think he lacks judicial temperament.
MR. RUSSERT: Why?
DR. DEAN: Because when you--and I have appointed a great many judges as my career as governor--the second thing after a work ethic that you look for when you're appointing a judge or a justice is judicial temperament. That means--in our judicial system, it's very important for the loser and/or the winner in any case to be--to feel like they've been treated fairly and respectfully by the court system. That's what is the glue that binds us together as a society. When you are sarcastic and mean-spirited, as the justice often is from the bench, it leaves the losing--the loser in that case feeling as if they were not respected by the judicial system, and that's why you don't put people with bad temperament on the--on any court, and I certainly don't think they should be on the Supreme Court of the United States.
MR. RUSSERT: When specifically was he mean-spirited or sarcastic?
DR. DEAN: You've seen many, many times. I don't have a specific time, but you could go read almost any oral argument in the last year and find sarcastic, mean-spirited remarks from the justice in those arguments."

Hmmh. I wonder how many past nominations to the Supreme Court wouldn't have cleared the Senate if Dr. Dean's "sarcasm & mean-spirit" standard had been applied? Would there have been a Justice Hugo Black, or a Justice William Douglas? I guess if Dr. Dean hadn't had his histrionic primary meltdown, and somehow magically defeated an incumbent President, we could be looking forward to nice, warm and fuzzy U.S. Supreme Court nominees from snowy Vermont. OK, sorry, now I'm being sarcastic. But, it would have been nice if Dr. Dean could have cited recent and specific examples of caustic Ninoisms (that we know and love).

University of Wisconsin Law Professor, Ann Althouse, posted some interesting thoughts about Dr. Dean's comments on her blog, Althouse.

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