Hooray for US Supreme Court Justices!!

Lookee here.

Synopsis: US SUPREME COURT JUSTICE is giving a speech on the US constution, and reporters are not allowed to record the event.

This guy lives, eats & breathes the constitution, and he forbids his appearances to be recorded? Let’s see…what was that document again that allows folks to say what they like about what they see? Isn’t there a fundamental provision in our country’s paperwork someplace that is supposed to protect the reporters in the story from this kind of treatment? I mean, it’s not like they were there to bash the judge or glean secrets from his speech!

Many of us have had dealings with the press, now tell me: would you rather have a reporter quote you from memory? Or would you give him possession of the event on a record medium so you can have it brought as evidence against him when he misquotes you?


You do believe in the First Amendment, obviously?

Well, it applies to Supreme Court justices too.

It was his speech. He has certain freedoms associated with it. One of those freedoms is that people in the audience can’t record if he doesn’t wish.

You might see similar warnings posted next time you decide to cut loose at a John Tesh concert, Inigo. It’s all perfectly legal.

I knew this would be about Scalia before I opened the link.

No fan of the man am I, but in his defense, it’s not terribly uncommon to ban recording devices at speeches. I think the concern is more about copyright issues than dodging responsibility for the content. After all, a reporter could take notes (and such events often have an official recording or transcript one could reference) and still report on the speech. There shold have been prior warning of the policy, however.

Scalia is no Bono or Clay Aiken, but, like them, he has every right to demand that people not record his speeches. Of course, speeches from the bench in performance of his duties are a different story, but private engagements when he chooses to speak to groups are his “performances,” and, like Bono or Major League Baseball, he can require that people not record them without his consent.

  • Rick

None-the-less, the specter of one of the nine people we have entrusted with the definition, interpretation and protection of the fundamental law of the nation limiting his audience to paying guests and claiming a privilege to keep the rest of the people from knowing what he is saying is more than a little troubling. Better the Justice should not speak at all than that he should give “for your ears only” quasi-public talks. When this guy talks it is the voice of the law (or at least 1/9, maybe 2/9, of the law). It should not be a secret.

If he is talking about hot duck hunting spots maybe it’s different, but his pronouncements on the law ought to be fully public.

Scalia has every right to ask that his speeches not be recorded. But I’m a little troubled by this if this is really what happened:

I don’t think a federal agent is authorized to seized property like that for violation of a speaker’s rule.

Okay, let me state at the outset that I agree with you intellectually. However, I think this goes to the “appearance of impropriety.” If Scalia wants to give a speech entitled “What my dog Binky did on summer vacation” or “Why I wear pink underwear”, then I think he’s got a case for making his speech private. However, given that the topic related directly to his “day-job” of interpreting the USC and acting as the highest authority in the land on Constitutional issues, I fail to see that it’s to anybody’s benefit for him to act like this. Based on the content of the speech, it’s possible that you could make an argument as to his impartiality on a given issue*, so it is in some sense his duty to allow the public (i.e., media) to hear and record the speech.

*Note: I realize that this is a hypothetical and I concede that the speeches in question were probably general in nature and didn’t present any bias.

Or on preview, what Spavined Gelding said.

:eek: Hopefully very private.

So here’s my question. Scalia recused himself from the pledge case because he had probably conflicted himself by something he said in a speech at a private function. What makes this private function different from that one? Is it not a conflict of interest or a pre-existing prejudice if only certain people(ticketholders, invited guests, etc.) hear it?


I read the brief for recusal a while back and IIRC, in that particular case, Scalia made a direct reference to the Newdow’s case and basically said that he’d already made up his mind (this was before the SC accepted the case).

So what’s to stop him from making another direct reference to another upcoming case or case which may be upcoming and prejudicing himself on it? The exclusion of certain technologies of recording wouldn’t change the fact that he did commit a breech of judicial ethics. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, it still makes a sound.


Ok, so he evidently has a right of ownership of his words and can distrubte them, or not, as he sees fit. So legally & constitutionally he’s covered.

To put an insane hypothetical spin on this, suppose Inigo Montoya wants to give a speech on a certain topic less lofty than the Constitution. He asks that nobody record his ramblings. Later, for some reason, someone decides it is worthwhile to cast a shadow on Inigo’s chracter and releases the tape. Can Inigo get protection from copyright laws? Is he entitled to restitution of any kind against the person how violated the conditions of attending the speech in the first place?

Something bugs me on a very visceral level about his attitude though. And I can’t quite put my finger on it. The Justice is making himself look like he has something to hide, or that he is perhaps too close financially to his profession (meaning he wants to retain ownership of his words…why?). I can stop wasting the hamsters with all this fury, but I’ll still be freaked out by it.

I think the reporter was absolutely in the wrong to try to record a speech that was intended to be off the record. I’m not expert in journalism, but this strikes me as a breech of ethics.

On the other hand, federal agents have no business bullying reporters.

Seems like one of those cases where there’s ample blame to go around.

The reporter wa absolutely not in the wrong. If there was no advance notice and nothing posting that recording was prohibuted, I would argue that it is the reporters duty to gather the most accurate possible record of the proceeding.

The speech was also not “off the record”. The story doesn’t suggest that other reporters, who presumably were taking written notes, were barred from attributing quotes to Justice Scalia.

While a Supreme Court Justice, or anyone else really, can certainly refuse to participate in events unless certain conditions are met – like not allowing recordings-- but this went well beyond what I would consider a reasonable response. It is up to the host and sponsor of the event to set the media rules on their property; Federal officers simply should not be able to sieze a reporter’s work product if the material is gathered legitimately, unless it is needed as evidence to prosecute a crime. Clearly that wasn’t the case, as they promptly destroyed it.

I would also point out that, appearing as a Federal employee, Justice Scalia does not own his apeeches. This is not a sports hero addressing a booster’s club, this is a government employee speaking to citizens.

So I pose thes related questions: does every word spoken by a Supreme Court Justice, regardless of the venue, have the full force of law behind it? Can, or should, a justice be able to exercise the full power of his office over an unexpected situation at a cocktail party imvolving his own activity?

IMHO, Scalia would have acted appropriately had he done the following: explain to the hosts that his ground rules were being violated, and that he would not participate until they put things right. The hosts could then address the reporters and offer them the choice of turning off their recorsing devices or leaving. If the OP article is correct, lacking advance notice of recording restrictions, there was absolutely know excuse for seizing anything recorded up to that point.

Instead, he ordered – or maybe even his security detail has standing orders – to simply seize any operating recording device in the vicinity and destroy the data. I find that behavior unacceptable.

After rereading the story, I’ll back off on my criticism of the reporter. From my quick first reading, it seemed evident to me that the speech was off the record, but looking over it again, I see that this was just my assumption.

Scalia’s a jerk.

Ummm…that was kind of my point about why, while technically “legal”, I thought this was a terrible idea for him.

IMO, Scalia forbids tape-recording during his speeches because he doesn’t want his voice used by his political opponents. Using his voice rather than a written quote would be far more effective in a politcal ad.

If the federal agents and/or Scalia had reason to believe the reporter recorded the speech and that it was in some way illegal to record it, there are ways to remedy that which involve the courts, not brute force or intimidation by law enforcement. Can law enforcement legally force someone to destroy property without an order from a court? I was under the impression that they aren’t allowed to do that.

Agreed. And further, I find that behavior to be assault and battery, and conversion. Were I the reporter, I would file suit forthwith. To the extent the marshal was acting in the service of Scalia, I would sue Scalia’s sorry ass, too, under a theory of respondeat superior.

Scalia has no more right than Clay Aiken (Bricker’s example) to seize a recording by peremptory use of force, even a recording wrongfully obtained (if it was wrongfully obtained).

If Scalia wishes to give a speech as a private citizen, with the protections afforded a private citizen, then he must follow the rules all us other citizens are expected to obey.

What political opponents? The guy’s got a job for life.

Yes, but he is a republican. Democrats like to use Scalia as a bogeyman, much like the right uses Hillary.

I think that factors into his thinking. I can’t think of another reason for forbidding audio and/or video taping of his speeches. It effectively cuts off the use of sound-bite ammunition.