Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Scalia's Blunder

Having read numerous opinions and all of his books (even the one on practical advise to lawyers in how to present a case), I have tremendous respect for Antonin Scalia.  However, I have never understood how he came to the conclusion that he did in the religious freedom case over the use of peyote by an American Indian in Employment Division v. Smith.  Perhaps I will never know.  No explanation seems consistent with his general practice.  One might think that as a conservative he would rule against the use of peyote; but anyone who has followed his rulings knows that his judicial philosophy quite often determines a ruling at odds with what a conventional conservative might be thought to prefer.  The case is baffling.

Michael Paulsen, though, explains why it was such a bad decision:

Antonin Scalia is one of the most brilliant, principled, sound, and thoughtful jurists ever to sit on the Supreme Court. But twenty-five years ago today, his legal skills utterly failed him.

Read his lucid critique here.

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