Message from Acting Chancellor and Dean David Faigman
Although Justice Antonin Scalia was, to say the least, a controversial figure on the Supreme Court, there is no gainsaying his impact on modern constitutional jurisprudence. He virtually single-handedly defined, and trumpeted, an originalist jurisprudence. To be sure, this approach to constitutional interpretation has not gained many adherents on the Court, though it has gotten great traction in the academy. For this reason, much of Justice Scalia’s jurisprudence is known through his dissents and, in particular, his colorful way of framing his arguments.
There are many examples. For instance, in the recent same-sex marriage case, he commented: “The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic. It is one thing for separate concurring or dissenting opinions to contain extravagances, even silly extravagances, of thought and expression; it is something else for the official opinion of the Court to do so.” In the case upholding the Affordable Care Act, he exclaimed, “The Court’s next bit of interpretive jiggery-pokery involves other parts of the Act that purportedly presuppose the availability of tax credits on both federal and state Exchanges.” In a First Amendment case over a statute regulating nudity in public, Justice Scalia wrote, "Perhaps the dissenters believe that 'offense to others' ought to be the only reason for restricting nudity in public places generally ... The purpose of Indiana's nudity law would be violated, I think, if 60,000 fully consenting adults crowded into the Hoosierdome to display their genitals to one another, even if there were not an offended innocent in the crowd." And in an earlier same-sex marriage case, he referred to the “legalistic argle-bargle” the court majority used as its rationale.
With the passing of Justice Scalia, it might be some time before we see a wordsmith of his caliber on the Court again. Whatever you thought of the substance of his dissents, they were never boring to read and will certainly live on in casebooks for decades to come. To honor the distinguished legacy that Justice Scalia leaves generations of law students, I have created the first annual Chancellor and Dean’s Essay Contest. This year’s contest is entitled “Scalia, J., Dissenting.”
All current UC Hastings students are eligible to compete. The contest requires entrants to submit a dissent to the majority opinion written by Justice Kennedy, which is linked here. The case involves one of Justice Scalia’s favorite subjects, the Second Amendment. Contestants should submit THREE hard copies of their entries (sorry, only one submission permitted per law student), and be delivered to the Dean’s office no later than 5:00pm Monday, March 14, 2016. Entries should include the name or names of the authors (coauthoring is permitted), and a contact email address, so that winners can be notified. All entries are limited to no more than 1000 words.
David L. Faigman