Audible gasps in the Supreme Court’s lawyers’ lounge

Scalia thinks protection of the right to vote is a “perpetuation of racial entitlement,” at least he does when the right being protected is the one being protected by the Voting Rights Act.

There were audible gasps in the Supreme Court’s lawyers’ lounge, where audio of the oral argument is pumped in for members of the Supreme Court bar, when Justice Antonin Scalia offered his assessment of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. He called it a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

Yeah we don’t want that. We want more rugged independence and pulling self up by own bootstraps around here, not this pesky Nanny State coddling of people by making it illegal to keep them from voting. Why if this goes on pretty soon voters of That Other Color will become downright Professional Victims. It’s got to stop. Having to overcome obstacles in order to vote builds character. It was dangerous and sometimes fatal for black people to register to vote in Mississippi in 1964, so why should black people in Mississippi have it easy now? It was difficult for them then so it should be difficult for their grandchildren now, because.

From the transcript:

JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, maybe it was making that judgment, Mr. Verrilli. But that’s — that’s a problem that I have. This Court doesn’t like to get involved in — in racial questions such as this one. It’s something that can be left — left to Congress.

The problem here, however, is suggested by the comment I made earlier, that the initial enactment of this legislation in a — in a time when the need for it was so much more abundantly clear was — in the Senate, there — it was double-digits against it. And that was only a 5-year term.

Then, it is reenacted 5 years later, again for a 5-year term. Double-digits against it in the Senate. Then it was reenacted for 7 years. Single digits against it. Then enacted for 25 years, 8 Senate votes against it. And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.

Racial entitlements. Like public schools, and admission to law school, and being able to vote. Those Other Races are being spoiled! Scalia never got any special help to vote, so why should anyone have it? Buncha princesses.


  1. says

    Scalia is just unreal. that’s the same “brilliant” mind that produced the comment about how crosses aren’t Christian but universal signs of mourning.

  2. Rob says

    Almost tempting to try whatever reality-bending drugs he uses, but I’d be afraid that the effect is permanent.. Do Justices have to pass an annual test to prove that they are human and not sociopathic?

    I suspect the changing vote in the Senate and Congress is symptomatic of the greater recognition of racial discrimination as the evil it is. Apparently something Scalia is still oblivious to.

  3. Ben P says

    I suspect the changing vote in the Senate and Congress is symptomatic of the greater recognition of racial discrimination as the evil it is. Apparently something Scalia is still oblivious to.

    Perhaps recognition, perhaps good politics. It is important to note that during the last renewal the Chairman of the judiciary committee was Jim Sensenbrenner. (R-Wi). Sensenbrenner hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the tea partiers, but he is by no means a liberal, or even moderate. He’s a pretty staunch conservative.

    However, Sensenbrenner held 4 weeks of hearings on the renewal and has made public statements to the effect that there is “a mountain” of evidence that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was still necessary to stop attempts at discrimination, and attorneys on his behalf have filed an Amicus brief stating that.

  4. unbound says

    And it’s not just Scalia. Alito, Thomas, Roberts and Kennedy with Scalia backed up the absolutely insane notion that people potentially being wiretapped can’t get a legal decision because the executive branch won’t disclose whether they are wiretapping the groups / people or not. Just claim state secret and the government can do anything they dang well please.

  5. iknklast says

    Of course, Scalia has said in the past that the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to women, and women shouldn’t be able to take their issues to the court under its protection. Probably perpetuates gender entitlement if we try? Scalia is not a nice person.

  6. edithkeeler says

    I just finished reading the biography of Ida B. Wells by Paula Giddings (which is brilliant) – and makes this all so much the more infuriating given the violence and law used to restrict African American voting is one of the major themes of the book.

    (And of course the abundance of contemporary evidence on voter suppression ….)

  7. CatBallou says

    I’m very curious about the source of Scalia’s information about other societies that have adopted racial entitlements. Which societies would those be? Unless he’s talking about entitlement for whites, such as apartheid in South Africa, or the US before the Voting Rights Act?

  8. Richard Pourau says

    Disgraceful, though totally in keeping with Scalia’s ‘originalist’ position. If he had his way, most of the US laws which now protect its citizens in ways unimagined in the 18th century would be scrapped for being unconstitutional on the grounds that they’re not strictly in keeping with intentions of the Framers as they were when the First Constitution was ratified. Scalia is the relic that puts the ‘ultra’ in ultra-conservative.

  9. jose says

    Isn’t that guy a religious nut? I remember a Gould essay criticizing him for defending creationism with absurd arguments.

  10. says

    The kicker is, you know that Thomas was nodding his head in agreement as Scalia spoke.

    Someone ought to remind Scalia — forcefully — of the institutionalized anti-Catholic and anti-Italian bigotry that his “perpetuation of racial entitlement” helped to eliminate.

  11. testostyrannical says

    I feel like the full force of what’s probably going to happen has been obscured because of Scalia’s off the wall comment. SCOTUS is very likely going to overturn a law that was recently unanimously reauthorized by the Senate in 2006 because five conservative justices don’t think racism exists anymore (or, to be fair, don’t think it’s especially prevalent in the South). Even within the framework of judicial review, it doesn’t make any sense. I kind of think it’s a long game problem for the conservative justices: given the demographic trends, it may be a long time before another Republican president is elected. Scalia for sure doesn’t have that many years left in him, and he certainly doesn’t want to die on Obama’s watch. All these guys have a professional incentive to allow Republican state legislatures to rig the electoral system in whatever way will benefit their party the most.

  12. Claire Ramsey says

    OK. Fine.

    Scalia is a fascist conservative ultra-right-wing pseudo-intellect. His character is deeply flawed.

    In addition, he is sick. Maybe his frontal lobe. Sooner or later someone will connect his off the wall bizarre comments to a brain disease.

    Having a brain disease does not excuse his fascism. I do not excuse his horrible decisions on the bench. And I do not cast aspersions on others who suffer from brain diseases. My mother is one of them.

  13. lpetrich says

    I’d like to see Antonin Scalia suffer some of what he is so happy with. Like endure someone arguing that we ought to bring back some colonial-era laws and deny Catholics the right to vote because they are subjects of a foreign power and not True Christians.

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