Associate Justice Antonin Scalia publicly lashed out at Fordham Law Professor Professor Joel Reidenberg who having his students compile a 15-page dossier on his private life. For civil libertarians, Scalia’s objections to a lack of privacy is analogous to Rep. Jane Harman’s outrage over being intercepted as part of the NSA warrantless program that she helped approve.
The controversy was triggered last January when Scalia spoke to the Institute of American and Talmudic Law’s midwinter conference on privacy issues. Scalia mocked privacy arguments, saying: “Every single datum about my life is private? That’s silly.”
It was so silly that Reidenberg decided to assign his students in his Information Privacy Law class to determine about much data they could find on Scalia in the public domain.
Reidenberg noted: “Justice Scalia said he doesn’t care what people find out about him on the Internet. So I challenged my class to compile a dossier on him.” It took only four months for the creation of a 15 page report filled with his home address, personal telephone number, favorite movies, favorite foods,his wife’s personal e-mail address, and “photos of his lovely grandchildren.”
Scalia went ballistic, stressing the difference between the question of legal protection and personal responsibility. He made the following statement:
I stand by my remark at the Institute of American and Talmudic Law conference that it is silly to think that every single datum about my life is private. I was referring, of course, to whether every single datum about my life deserves privacy protection in law.
It is not a rare phenomenon that what is legal may also be quite irresponsible. That appears in the First Amendment context all the time. What can be said often should not be said. Prof. Reidenberg’s exercise is an example of perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment. Since he was not teaching a course in judgment, I presume he felt no responsibility to display any.
Of course, Professor Reidenberg is not the only one accused of “perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment,” here.
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