William and Mary Law School

Author Joan Biskupic and Professor Alan Meese Discuss Justice Antonin Scalia, an "American Original"

  • Author Joan Biskupic and Professor Alan Meese
    Author Joan Biskupic and Professor Alan Meese
    The Institute of Bill of Rights Law at William & Mary Law School hosted a panel on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia featuring author Joan Biskupic and Alan Meese, Ball Professor of Law and a former law clerk for Justice Scalia.
On January 28, the Institute of Bill of Rights Law at William & Mary Law School hosted a panel on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia featuring Joan Biskupic, author of American Original: The Life and Constitution of Justice Antonin Scalia, and Alan Meese, Ball Professor of Law and a former law clerk for the justice.

In discussing her book, Biskupic focused on three main points: why she chose to write about Scalia, how she gained access to interview him, and the challenge of writing with impartiality about "someone who is so polarizing."  She said she became intrigued with Scalia when she was conducting research for a book on Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.  "No two justices have such opposite approaches to the law," she noted, "and such different personalities."

Biskupic said Scalia was hesitant to be interviewed at first.  Despite this potential setback, she began exhaustive research into his written opinions and public speeches. She also conducted interviews with people who knew him, including former clerks and his colleagues on the Court. Soon, she said, "He became interested in what I was finding out and agreed to a series of twelve interviews.  Then I was saying, 'so many Scalia stories, so little time.'"

One of her principal theses in the book is that while Scalia is commonly perceived as a polarizing figure on the Court, famous for his fiery dissents, "he was actually having a persuasive effect within the marble walls." She concluded, "Through the force of his personality, the sense of his mission and the recent play of politics, he has arrived at the apex of his power in a way that we would have never predicted.  His imprint on the law will only get deeper and more potent."

Meese praised the book and offered a few insights of his own about the justice.  "If there is one word that describes Justice Scalia, it would be 'motion,'" Meese said.  "He is always moving, either actually or metaphorically, in some direction.  The book really captures his life and his dynamism."

Joan Biskupic, a USA Today legal affairs correspondent, has covered the Supreme Court since 1989.  Formerly the Supreme Court reporter for The Washington Post, she is a frequent panelist on PBS's Washington Week and has been a frequent participant in the annual Supreme Court Preview hosted by the Institute of Bill of Rights Law.

Alan Meese is Ball Professor of Law at William & Mary Law School.  He holds a law degree from the University of Chicago, where he was elected to Order of the Coif.  Prior to his clerkship with Justice Scalia, he clerked for Judge Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit.  Meese joined the William & Mary faculty in 1995 and was a Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Virginia in 2001-2002.  He has been a Fellow with the Institute of Bill of Rights Law since 1997; he teaches Constitutional Law, Antitrust and Economic Analysis of the Law.