Justice Antonin Scalia has once again earned himself the ire of law students. Not long ago, Scalia was clearly out-of-line in slapping down a law student for a perfectly reasonable question. Now, he is being quoted in telling students out of the top schools that, no matter how hard they work, they will probably never have a chance for a Supreme Court clerkship based entirely on their school. He basically threw the student a quarter and told her to call her mama and tell her that she was never going to be a Supreme Court clerk.
Salia was speaking about administrative law at American University Washington College of Law on April 24 when he was asked by a student what she would have to do to become “outrageously successful” without “connections and elite degrees.” He responded with an example of arbitrary and capricious reasoning in administrative law. The scene is now something of a signature moment for Scalia.
Scalia first responded with a correct, if robotic, “Just work hard and be very good.” Then that dominant Scalia gene kicked in, and he added:
“By and large, I’m going to be picking from the law schools that basically are the hardest to get into. They admit the best and the brightest, and they may not teach very well, but you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. If they come in the best and the brightest, they’re probably going to leave the best and the brightest, O.K.?”
According to his view, he was speaking to an audience of “sow’s ears.”
Of course, it is true that justice rarely interview people out of the top law schools. However, that has less to do with the quality of the students as the bias and frankly laziness of the justices. It is ridiculous to believe that the top student at a school like American (ranked 45th) would not be competitive with the students at these other schools. More importantly, the justices should feel an obligation not to replicate this monopoly system. They hold one of nine positions on the highest court for the nation. They should act to look at students across the country and among the various schools.
Instead, Scalia basically follows the approach of Chicago Alderman Timothy O’Sullivan who once was asked by a young eager college student named Abner Mikva if you could volunteer on a campaign. When O’Sullivan asked “who sent you?”, Mikva responded, “Nobody.”. O’Sullivan responded with the classic: “We don’t want nobody that nobody sent.” O’Scalia’s approach to merit hiring is little better.
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