Oh, Antonin Scalia. Love or hate him, he is the most entertaining Supreme Court justice to read, in large part because the man never met a fight he didn’t like. He writes everything like he is leading with that big angry chin of his. His cranky dissents are legendary even when you don’t actually remember what the hell the case was. Who could forget PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin, 532 U.S. 661 (2001), a thrilling tale of whether a disabled golfer could ride in a golf court during the tour? OK, literally every person on earth that wasn’t a party to that case can likely forget it. But you may have found it worth your while to make some brainspace for Scalia’s extended howl of rage at how stupid his colleagues were.
It has been rendered the solemn duty of the Supreme Court of the United States, laid upon it by Congress in pursuance of the Federal Government’s power “[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States,” U. S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 3, to decide What Is Golf. I am sure that the Framers of the Constitution, aware of the 1457 edict of King James II of Scotland prohibiting golf because it interfered with the practice of archery, fully expected that sooner or later the paths of golf and government, the law and the links, would once again cross, and that the judges of this august Court would some day have to wrestle with that age-old jurisprudential question, for which their years of study in the law have so well prepared them: Is someone riding around a golf course from shot to shot really a golfer? The answer, we learn, is yes. The Court ultimately concludes, and it will henceforth be the Law of the Land, that walking is not a “fundamental” aspect of golf.
You want some more? Scalia will give you more, complete with maximum literary references. Here he is still super mad about this golf case.
Complaints about this case are not “properly directed to Congress,” ante, at 689, n. 51. They are properly directed to this Court’s Kafkaesque determination that professional sports organizations, and the fields they rent for their exhibitions, are “places of public accommodation” to the competing athletes, and the athletes themselves “customers” of the organization that pays them; its Alice in Wonderland determination that there are such things as judicially determinable “essential” and “nonessential” rules of a made-up game; and its Animal Farm determination that fairness and the ADA mean that everyone gets to play by individualized rules which will assure that no one’s lack of ability (or at least no one’s lack of ability so pronounced that it amounts to a disability) will be a handicap. The year was 2001, and “everybody was finally equal.” K. Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron, in Animal Farm and Related Readings 129 (1997).
It only takes a couple of these before you start to ask yourself “self, is Justice Scalia by far and away the most sarcastic person on the court in, say, ever?” Now you can have that age-old question answered thanks to Rick Hasen at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Hasen actually sat down and created a Sarcasm Index and your favorite angry Italian was at the very tippity top.
Justice Scalia registered 2.78 on Professor Hasen’s index, dwarfing the showings of every justice he has served with. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. came in a very distant second, at 0.43. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not even register.
Oh, snap. You can read Hasen’s whole paper here, and it even has a nifty explanation of his methodology for all you super science data types. Basically, he read a bunch of law reviews and newspaper articles and did some counting.
I counted each time a Justice’s majority, concurring, or dissenting opinion was described by the author of the article as “sarcastic” or a similar term. I removed from the count references in which a Justice’s opinion was described, in one way or another, as not sarcastic. I also excluded references to Justices making sarcastic comments at oral argument or elsewhere aside from in a Supreme Court opinion. In a few cases, I counted the description of a Justice’s opinion as sarcastic even if the description related to a pre-1986 Supreme Court case, if the reference appeared in a law journal between 1986 and 2013.
The database yielded 134 results in which a Justice’s opinion is described as sarcastic or caustic. Justice Scalia had 75 of them, and the rest of the Justices who have been on the Court any time through 1986 and 2013 combined had 59 such descriptions of opinions.
So you basically if you piled everyone on the court for the last 27 years atop each other, they still wouldn’t add up to one Scalia, sarcasm-wise. Excellent job, Antonin! You’re number one!
Because lawyers are lawyers, there is a polite nerd-fight happening now over whether the methodology of this study is sound. To be fair, the study is just Hasen counting how many other people said Scalia was sarcastic blended with some not terribly difficult (we think?) math. We are not science-y people, so we don’t have to figure this out. All we have to do is pray that if we ever go to the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia likes us so that we don’t ever have to be the subject of one of these dissents.