The recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, reminded me of the day I was sworn in by Chief Justice Rehnquist as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar. Afterwords, the little delegation of new members from the University of Chicago Law School met with Justices Scalia , Breyer and Ginsburg for "tea' and a chat.
I was especially interested in speaking to Scalia because of various connections I had with him, not personal, but institutional. Justice Scalia had taught for several years at my Alma Mater, The University Of Chicago Law School. He matriculated at Georgetown, where he earned his Bachelor's. My late daughter graduated from Georgetown, but from the Law School, not the College. Scalia graduated from Harvard Law. I had done by post graduate legal studies at Harvard Law, where I worked on he American Law Institute Tax Project. Kind of a stretch, right? But most of all I admired Scalia for his profound legal scholarship, exquisitely crafted decisions and famous wit and humor.
All three justices proved to be very pleasant conversationalists, although Justice Ginsburg seemed especially frail, Still, this was over a decade ago and she is still active on the court.
The religious profile of the court was remarkable: 6 Catholics and 3 Jews. While all of the Jewish justices tended to vote on the liberal side, the Catholics were split. Justice Sotomayor was (is) liberal; Kennedy relished being the swing vote when the court was split 4-4. Roberts, surprisingly, turned out to be the wild card, twice voting to uphold Obamacare, astonishing his colleagues.
Does the voting record of the justices have anything to do with their religious affiliation? It shouldn't, but it probably does. Yet it would be difficult to assess accurately the contribution of religious affiliation to the record of the justices.
The death of Scalia has precipitated a mini-crisis. Whether it will turn out to be a major turning point in American jurisprudence remains to be seen. Did I glean any special predictive information in my brief conversations with the justices? Regrettably, no. Still, it was fun, and made me feel that while I wasn't a significant part of history, I was close to those who were.