Jack Ohman

Scalia disses California, and we heartily disagree

Justice Antonin Scalia observed that the nation’s highest court isn’t exactly a cross-section of America, and he’s right. All of the justices are from either Harvard or Yale law schools, and all are easterners, except for his colleague, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is a native Sacramentan.
Justice Antonin Scalia observed that the nation’s highest court isn’t exactly a cross-section of America, and he’s right. All of the justices are from either Harvard or Yale law schools, and all are easterners, except for his colleague, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is a native Sacramentan. Associated Press file

Justice Antonin Scalia isn’t known for his subtly phrased, often jiggery-pokery opinions on the U.S. Supreme Court, but his nuclear-option dissent on same-sex marriage could go down in history as his most incendiary.

Scalia observed that the nation’s highest court isn’t exactly a cross-section of America, and he’s right. All of the justices are from either Harvard or Yale law schools, and all are Easterners, except for his colleague, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is a native Sacramentan.

Scalia’s fury at his bench mate Kennedy was so palpable that he couldn’t resist noting that there were there no Protestants or Westerners on the court. “California doesn’t count,” he said, as a western state.

California is indeed a western state, as it is contiguous to the Pacific Ocean. Not only that, California is the westernmost state in the Lower 48. Next stop, open water. Can’t get more western than that. We are far more western than Nevada, Utah, Colorado and other so-called “western states.”

Scalia got his start in the Nixon administration, named for Yorba Linda native son Richard Nixon. President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the bench in 1986. Reagan, many here might recall, was a California governor.

Reagan’s casual attire could best be described as western in appearance, given his predilection for cowboy hats, jeans and boots. He wore them on his “ranch,” which is a kind of a western farm.

And that ranch, Rancho del Cielo, was located here in California. In the West. The Reagan administration called it the “Western White House.” Furthermore, Reagan starred in “Westerns,” a film genre that incorporates western iconography and imagery. Some of those movies were made right here in the Golden State, the home of Los Angeles and Hollywood. They even have a West Hollywood. And a Westwood.

More western street cred for California.

Now, we get that Scalia is upset about same-sex marriage. Maybe he feels as if he has lost the culture wars, and that western (not California) civilization is collapsing atop a same-sex wedding cake. Maybe Tony Kennedy beat him at Scrabble. But perhaps it would have been more, say, judicious to not name-call a great western state.

Scalia argues that hippie-laden California can’t possibly reflect the real world: you know, like, say, his native New Jersey, governed by a man who thinks the West is Passaic County. In a way, Scalia is right. California is an island of thought unto itself.

For that matter, so are Washington, D.C.; New York City; Cambridge, Mass.; New Haven, Conn.; Miami; Dallas; and many other non-California places where a certain mindset is evident.

We agree wholeheartedly with Scalia that the court should be more representative and recommend that he immediately step down in favor of someone from a western law school. Stanford is pretty good. Boalt at Berkeley is right up there, too. UCs Hastings, Irvine and Davis produce many fine lawyers as well.

Those schools are in the West, incidentally.

We might remind Scalia that one of the greatest Supreme Court justices of all time was from right here in “Californiadoesn’tcount.” Ask one of your law clerks (Harvard? Yale? Probably) about him.

His name was Earl Warren, who, by the way, was a Boalt Hall grad.

We bet his opinion would be that California counted, and it is a western state.

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