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GOVERNMENT / THE ELITE -
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Scalia says he's proud he didn't recuse himself in Cheney case

Posted in the database on Wednesday, April 12th, 2006 @ 15:47:53 MST (1219 views)
from wfsb.com  

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Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Wednesday called his 2004 decision not to recuse himself from a case involving his friend Vice President Dick Cheney the "proudest thing" he's done on the court.

Scalia's remarks came as he took questions from students during a lecture at the University of Connecticut's law school.

The case in question involved Cheney's request to keep private the details of closed-door White House strategy sessions that produced the administration's energy policy. The administration fought a lawsuit brought by watchdog and environmental groups that contended that industry executives, including former Enron chairman Ken Lay, helped shape that policy. The Supreme Court upheld the administration position on a 7-2 vote.

Scalia refused to recuse himself from the case, rejecting arguments by critics who said his impartiality was brought into question because of a hunting vacation that he took with Cheney while the court was considering the vice president's appeal.

"For Pete's sake, if you can't trust your Supreme Court justice more than that, get a life," he said Wednesday.

He told students he would have recused himself if the case had involved Cheney personally, but that he viewed the situation differently because the vice president was named in his official capacity as head of the group.

"I think the proudest thing I have done on the bench is not allowed myself to be chased off that case," Scalia said.

Scalia, 70, was appointed in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Reagan nominated him four years later to the U.S. Supreme Court, filling the opening that occurred when William Rehnquist became chief justice.

Scalia said he takes a very literal approach to the Constitution, and strongly disputes the idea that the wording selected by the Constitution's framers should be viewed in light of society's evolving morals and political leanings.

"You can't take the position that these words are expandable in one direction and not expandable in the other," he said. "They obviously meant to set some standards to control future generations."

He also said because of the Supreme Court's time constraints and heavy workload, it often has to pass on the chance to review many potentially valid cases.

Instead, the court often has to put those aside, focusing largely on appeals that pose true Constitutional challenges or could settle disputes between courts, he said.

"I can't tell you how many cases I look at and say, 'Boy, they really messed that up,' " he said, adding a motion that pantomimed tossing something aside.

Several students who attended the speech said afterward that they were surprised by Scalia's candor, though none were surprised that he hewed to his well-documented conservative stances.

"He's definitely a very smart guy, very bright," said third-year UConn law student Kay Williams of Rockville, Ind. "I think from his speech today, it seemed that while he has certain views, he's not looking to impose them on everyone else."

That opinion was not shared by protesters who set up tables and passed out pamphlets on the lawn near the building where Scalia spoke.

At a same-sex kissing booth near the lecture hall, students said they believe some of Scalia's opinions amount to attacks on gays, women and other minorities.

"His visit opened a lot of conversation on this campus," said third-year law student Colby Smith, who was wearing an "I Kiss Boys" T-shirt. "We want to make sure people understand what the concerns are with him, and why his views are particularly offensive."



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