A man known for the forceful expression of opinion, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was oddly shy about media coverage of his appearance Friday at the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Possibly, he has only one speech and is striving to keep it fresh. At any rate, the speech he gave at UALR, the first in a new lecture series at the law school, and given, Scalia said, in memory of the late Judge Richard S. Arnold of Little Rock, was the same one he’d given a couple of nights earlier at Harvard Law School, where he and Arnold were once classmates.
Scalia spoke at 5 p.m. Friday to an invited audience that included members of the Arnold family, state and federal judges, university presidents, prominent lawyers and U.S. attorneys. At Scalia’s request, according to UALR communications director Amy Oliver Barnes, neither videotaping nor audiotaping of the speech for later broadcast was allowed. That meant no TV cameras in the auditorium; the only tape recorders allowed were those used by print reporters for note-taking purposes. There were no still cameras, either. Barnes said UALR decided that if TV cameras were to be banned, newspaper cameras should be disallowed as well.
Earlier in the day, Scalia had spoken to UALR students. The law school dean, Charles W. Goldner Jr., said in an e-mail to students on Wednesday, Sept. 29, that the large guest list for the evening lecture precluded student attendance. He said Scalia had agreed to a session for students and faculty only, at which the justice would make remarks and then answer questions.
"This opportunity to interact with Justice Scalia is definitely superior to the lecture that evening, as in the evening there will be no audience questions and discussion; it will be a straight lecture," Goldner wrote. "Your opportunity to hear Justice Scalia and engage in conversation with him is certainly going to be unique during your time at this school, and for many of you will probably be the only opportunity you have in your lifetime."
No media of any kind were allowed at the student session. Barnes said it was considered a classroom event, and the media were not generally admitted to the classroom at UALR.
After the evening lecture, Scalia attended a reception in his honor. Cameras were permitted. That’s when the Arkansas Times got its photographs.
Some at the law school, and some guests, were disturbed about the restrictions imposed by Scalia and the school. A student wrote to the Times about the ban on taping, "Why is a law school, of all places, going along with what seems to be wrongful by not allowing the public — which finances the law school — to hear the speeches?"
Rick Peltz, an associate professor who teaches First Amendment law, said he was disappointed by the ban on taping. "I’m a big fan of his jurisprudence, but I’m also a fan of access," Peltz said. "I don’t understand why he has this policy. I would like to have seen us publish a lecture by him in our journal on the appellate judiciary. But the restrictions apply to us too."
Peltz and others agreed that neither the Arkansas Freedom of Information law nor the federal FOI would apply to the situation. The Arkansas law applies to meetings of government bodies and disclosure of public documents. The federal FOI exempts the judiciary.
At Harvard (a speech that was reported in the Harvard Crimson) and at Little Rock, Scalia deplored what he said was the tendency of judges to rule on issues that should be left to the people to decide, as the right of women to vote was decided by constitutional amendment. There are no scientific "right answers" for questions involving abortion, suicide, gay marriage and the teaching of evolution, he said, and even if there were, "There is no reason to believe that judges could find them. … It is blindingly clear that judges have no greater capacity than the rest of us to decide what is moral."
Scalia said he was unhappy about the intrusion of politics into the judicial appointment process, a development he blamed on Democrats, who, he said, were blocking the appointment of any judge they believed wouldn’t uphold the Roe v. Wade abortion decision. But he said that even the intrusion of politics was better than "government by judicial aristocracy."
Scalia was not paid for the speech, but he was reimbursed for travel expenses. Not long ago, U.S. marshals confiscated tapes from reporters at a Scalia speech. Apparently it was after that incident, and the ensuing outcry, that he decided to allow taping for note-taking. At a Scalia speech in Hattiesburg, Miss., in April, a U.S. deputy marshal seized tape recordings of the speech from two journalists. Scalia then wrote letters of apology to the journalists, and changed his policy to allow taping for notes. He is the only justice who prohibits taping for broadcast.