Defending the Bully

Our hearts go out to the innocent victims of a wrong.  It’s human nature.  But it takes a particularly twisted perspective to turn the bully into the victim, especially when the spinner is someone who has dedicated his efforts to advocating for victims at all costs.  This is why Utah Lawprof and former federal judge Paul Cassell’s post at Volokh Conspiracy is so bizarrely shocking.

Without knowing the underlying details, I was ready, for the first time ever, to agree with Paul about a post:

CBS News “Analyst” Andrew Cohen has called Justice Scalia a “bully” for offering strongly-worded views on legal subjects in this column. Cohen’s views are absurd. There is a vast difference between strongly arguing one’s case and “bullying” someone. In fact, it is Justice Scalia’s well-known ability to offer lively, opinionated views on legal subjects is what makes him such a desirable speaker for many organizations.

Interestingly, the apparent flash point for Cohen’s column is the fact that Justice Scalia opposes televising Supreme Court proceedings — something that CBS has a vested interest in securing.

So, some knee-jerk liberal Nino-hater went after him for offering “lively, opinionated views on legal subjects?” Well that’s wrong.  Just because he’s not one of ours doesn’t mean he isn’t entitled to take the opposing position, and doesn’t mean that he should be denigrated for holding a different view.  After all, Nino is most assuredly lively and opinionated.  It’s one of the things I love most about him.

So I clicked the link, to see what this scoundrel Cohen was all worked up about.  What new dastardly deed had he unearthed?

Tuesday afternoon, Scalia showed again just how easy it is to set him off when a college student asked him a reasonable, even poignant question about accessibility to the workings of the Supreme Court. Here is how the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel chronicled the incident :
Student Sarah Jeck stood in front of 750 people and asked Scalia why cameras are not allowed in the U.S. Supreme Court even though the court hearings are open, transcripts are available and the court’s justices are open enough to go ‘out on book tours.’ ‘Read the next question,’ Scalia replied. ‘That’s a nasty, impolite question.’

Wait a second.  Aside from this being old news, where exactly is the “lively and opinionated views on legal subjects” that Paul referred to?  This was a Supreme Court Justice who couldn’t handle a perfectly reasonable question from a student, and had to blow her off with a universally derided reaction.  This has nothing to do with Nino’s views on camera in the courtroom, a view that I happen to agree with, or any other view on any legal subject under the sun.  This was a Supreme Court Justice humiliating a student for asking a question he didn’t care to answer.  Even Nino’s staunchest conservative supporters blushed at this one.  Whether “bully” is the right word is subject to debate, but it clearly wasn’t Scalia’s finest moment.

The aspect most striking is hardly Scalia’s abuse at the hands of the evil Andrew Cohen, but the abject lack of intellectual integrity of Paul Cassell’s attempt to spin Scalia into the victim of this exchange.  Before, Paul was the hero of the victim, though his definition of victim was so far attenuated from what normal people would accept as to put him onto the distant fringe.  But now, it’s clear that he’s not above twisting his own victim-cred to use it to further a political agenda.

So much for taking the victim’s rights mob seriously.  When Paul Cassell sells his credibility this cheaply, he’s now relegated to the shill pile.