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Vol. 5, Iss. 3
March 2, 2016

My Two Brushes With Justice Scalia
(Including The Coverage Opinions Interview That Almost Was)


Needless to say, the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia was a 9.2 on the Richter scale for the Supreme Court as well as the Presidential election. The tributes to the former Justice, and prognostications of how his death with impact the court’s current cases, and ones in the future, have been abundant.

I had two letter writing exchanges in my legal career with Justice Scalia. The first was very satisfying and the second ended in disappointment.

On the positive side, in 1992 I was finishing up a clerkship for the late Judge Murray Goldman of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. I wanted to get Judge Goldman a gift to say thank you for the wonderful experience. The Judge liked autographs, so I sent a letter to each member of the U.S. Supreme Court, asking them to kindly sign a “First Day of Issue” commemorative envelope for a stamp that had a law theme. These are popular with autograph collectors. My plan was to put them all in a large frame. I did not explain to the Supreme Court Justices the reason for my request. Eight sent back signed envelopes. One did not. Instead I received a letter from Justice Scalia’s chambers saying that it was his policy not to sign autographs.

I wrote back to Justice Scalia, this time on Judge Goldman’s letterhead, and this time explaining my purpose. I asked him for reconsideration so that I would not have an incomplete set for the Judge. His reply – in perfect Scaliaism -- is nearby. I may be the only lawyer to have been granted reconsideration by Justice Scalia.

My second brush with Justice Scalia came in the Summer of 2013 when I contacted him, requesting to do a written Q&A about his book, Making Your Case, for Coverage Opinions. His response is also nearby. While Justice Scalia technically never said that he would do it, it seemed likely from his letter that he was on board with it. Needless to say, I only sent him back a few questions and they were fairly simple and innocuous. I didn’t exactly ask him how he planned to vote in certain cases. In any event, despite sending Justice Scalia the questions as requested, and contacting his chambers several times to follow-up, answers were never forthcoming. Obviously he was a busy guy and it just fell off his radar. It was disappointing, but, alas, sometimes the train goes off the track when it comes to interviewing very busy people.
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