NEW YORK, April 25 — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,
who went on a duck hunting trip with Vice President Dick Cheney a few months
before the court was slated to hear a case involving Cheney, still refuses to
cede any legal ground over the case, believing it would set a terrible
precedent to recuse himself under political pressure. But, Newsweek has
learned, he has said privately that if he had it to over again, he’d skip the
duck hunt, reports Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Debra Rosenberg in the May 3
issue (on newsstands Monday, April 26).
Scalia remains as combative as ever publicly, Rosenberg reports, but
privately, the justice feels bruised. He was stung by the actions of friend
Sen. Patrick Leahy, who sent a sharp letter to Chief Justice William Rehnquist
questioning whether Scalia could be “fair and impartial” in the Cheney case.
And he grew dismayed that he’d become the butt of late-night jokes.
“Sometimes you get so isolated that you lose a sense of how things appear to
the rest of the world,” Leahy says.
Because Scalia doesn’t see himself as a raging partisan, he seems baffled
that anyone else would. His brand of conservatism is more about the law — and
a strict reading of the Constitution — than about political ideology. Scalia
likes to hire liberal clerks who spar with him in his book-lined chambers. And
though his final opinions are full of swagger, the first drafts often reflect
more hand-wringing. “It’s hard to get it right,” he often remarks in chambers,
former clerks say. If Scalia’s strict reasoning leads him to a seemingly
“liberal” result — as it has in cases involving flag burning, search-and-
seizure and pornography — then so be it. “I don’t think Justice Scalia is a
politician in a black robe,” says E. Joshua Rosenkranz, who clerked for him on
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.