Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported on an anecdote from a set of interviews that all the Supreme Court justices recently granted to C-SPAN. This week is "Supreme Court Week" on C-SPAN, and that should attract more viewers than the channel's next biggest draw, the long-running reality show "Guy Making a Speech to an Empty Room." In particular, you might want to watch for excerpts from an interview with Justice Scalia.
The WSJ reported that, when asked about his opinion of the "quality of counsel" who appear before the Court, Scalia said he thought it was actually quite good. Unlike some other justices (such as former Chief Justice Burger, who Scalia said "used to complain about the low quality of counsel"), Scalia said that in his opinion those appearing before the Court were often "brilliant" and represented some of "our very best minds."
And he thinks that's a tragedy.
I used to have just the opposite reaction [to Burger's]. I used to be disappointed that so many of the best minds in the country were being devoted to this enterprise.
I mean there’d be a, you know, a defense — or public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?
I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.
Well, that's an odd statement, especially coming from one of the best minds devoted to this enterprise. If I understand correctly, Justice Scalia is saying, "It is depressing to see so many smart lawyers here in the Supreme Court, because each of them is such a tragic loss for the engineering profession." I don't see how that follows. Trust me, there are lots of smart lawyers who would consider it a victory to successfully set the clock on their VCRs – and who still have VCRs – so it isn't like every smart person could have become either a lawyer or an engineer or whatever. And would it really cheer him up to see more stupid lawyers, because that would mean engineers as a group must be getting smarter? Somehow, I doubt it.
Also, could someone tell Justice Scalia that the automobile has already been invented? He can stop worrying about that issue, at least.
Link: WSJ Law Blog