Antonin Scalia

We had the honor of meeting the gregarious Antonin Scalia on several occasions during his visit a few years ago to the Pontifical Catholic University in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where we used to teach. At a faculty luncheon in his honor, one of my colleagues (Ruben Nigaglioni, a respected attorney and long-time torts professor) asked Justice Scalia what was the most difficult decision he had ever made as a sitting judge. I will never forget this moment. The room fell quiet as Scalia thought about this question. After a few moments of quiet reflection, Scalia finally answered Boyle v. United Technologies Corporation (a products liability case). He said that his heart told him to rule in favor of the plaintiff, a Marine helicopter pilot who died in a tragic accident caused by a product defect, but his legal reasoning led him to cast the deciding vote in favor of the defendants, the military contractors that had designed and built the defective helicopter. I will never forget this moment (and Scalia’s answer), for it illustrated the enormous chasm that exists between judges and law professors. Law professors get to argue about “hard cases” from the luxury of our Ivory Towers. Judges, however, are the ones who actually have to decide these cases.

Image Credit: Art Lien

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