Yes, it’s true. WC and Mrs .WC went birding in Fairbanks with the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. A few months after he joined in the supreme court decision that stole the presidency from Vice President Al Gore.1 And we let him live.
It happened like this. The Alaska Bar Convention was in Fairbanks that year. Justice Scalia was the guest of honor and featured speaker. Justie Scalia reportedly expressed an interest in seeing some birds. Alaska Bar Executive Director Deborah O’Reagan and CLE Director Barbara Armstrong jointly asked WC to take Justice Scalia on a bird walk. WC has always found it very hard to say “No” to those ladies. And then 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert Boochever asked WC to take him along.
Now WC’s bird skills are mediocre at best, but Mrs. WC is a genuine birding genius. Plus, she knows the birds and bird locations around Creamer’s Refuge far better than WC. As a registered member of the Green Party in Alaska, she was less than enthusiastic about squiring around an arch-conservative, but the temptation of meeting a bona fide supreme court justice was too much and at 7:30 AM one grey morning we waited at Creamer’s Refuge to take Justice Scalia, Judge Boochever and a couple of U.S. Marshals around the trails.
They arrived in a squadron of big, black Chevy Suburbans. There were two already parked in the parking lot by the farmhouse. After introductions, and after we loaned Justice Scalia a pair of binoculars, we set out along the trails. The Justice was a lousy birder. And wanted to talk about shooting ducks more than the birds we were seeing. On the board walks of the Boreal Forest Trail, Mrs. WC whispered to WC that we ought to push him off into the swampy water under the board walk. WC pointed out the woods were full of U.S. Marshals, and that while it might be tempting, it wouldn’t be prudent. Se we left him dry and Mrs. WC avoided assault charges.
We found Justice Scalia a Blackpoll Warbler and a Lincoln’s Sparrow, both pretty good birds, in addition to the usual suspects. But he continued to talk about shooting ducks.2 We ended the walk at Alaska Bird Observatory’s banding station, where Judge Boochever and Justice Scalia both had a chance to release a banded bird. Judge Boochever did so with evident pleasure, a big smile of delight on his face at the bird left his hand and flew off. Justice Scalia’s face didn’t show a thing.
WC is and was a harsh critic of Justice Scalia and his hypocritical nonsense of “originalism.” And not the only critic, either. Our world has precious little to do with the lives of the much-revered Founding Fathers. It speaks more to the intellectual bankruptcy of conservative thinking that they bought the poppycock Justice Scalia was peddling to justify his closed thinking.
At some point WC will likely visit Antonin Scalia’s grave. Just to make sure he’s still dead.
- Yes, technically it was a per curiam decision, meaning it had no official author. But was you sort through the concurring opinions, it’s pretty clear who joined in what Alan Dershowitz called “the single most corrupt decision in Supreme Court history.” ↩
- Only later would be learn how lucky we were not to have agreed to take him duck hunting. ↩