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letters | taking a measure of the high court

Antonin Scalia’s sarcasm unbecoming of a Supreme Court justice

IT IS time for Justice Antonin Scalia to step down from the Supreme Court. He has become an embarrassment to this important and singular institution. When the majority of his colleagues go against him, all he can do is write dissents that include phrases such as “interpretive jiggery-pokery,” which he used to describe the 6-3 decision supporting Obama administration subsidies for health insurance exchanges. If my students resorted to such immature slang, I would give their papers right back to them.

The only way he seems to be able to justify his opposition is by insulting his colleagues, as when he says that Justice Kennedy’s first sentence in the majority opinion supporting gay marriage was so bad that he would rather “hide my head in a bag” than agree. He also derided the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges as silly, absurd and egotistic. He called it a “judicial Putsch,” with “straining-to-be-memorable” language.


When my children were young, I insisted they be able to justify their opinions rather than simply insulting those with whom they disagree. Perhaps Scalia can no longer find any justifiable reason for his obsolete values, so he must turn to sarcasm and insults to make his point. The problem is this: He is supposed to be analyzing these cases, not using his position of power to force his values on all the rest of us. The Supreme Court deserves a more capable jurist. It is embarrassing to have his dissents preserved in the historical archives of the United States.

Paula Stamps Duston, Chesterfield, N.H.

The writer is a professor emeritus in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.