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FUMARE

Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ummm! Tequila!

The new term at the United States Supreme Court has just begun, with quaking attorneys facing off against nine intellectual giants in oral arguments. (Okay, maybe they're not all "giants", but I have to respect the position of Supreme Court Justice. Besides "giants" or not, I'd still be quaking in front of them.)

At Tuesday's session, the case involved a petitioner who had served his jail time for cocaine possession, had been deported to Mexico, and yet was still technically on supervised release status. Being on supervised release, there were some things petitioner was prohibited from doing, like drinking alcohol. The issue was whether this supervised release status was moot, and whether the U.S. could bring the petitioner back to jail if it found out the petitioner was drinking.

Putting the situation into context with an example, Justice Scalia said this:

We have a case involving standing which says that -- you know, the doctrine of standing is more than an exercise in the conceivable. And this seem to me an exercise in the conceivable. Nobody thinks your client is really, you know, abstaining from tequila down in Mexico because he is on supervised
release in the United States
, or is going -- is going to apply having been deported from the country for criminal offenses, he is going to apply to come back --and look, these are ingenious exercises in the conceivable. This is just not the real world.

And people are getting upset at the tequila comment.
Carlos Ortiz, former president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, was not in the audience but reacted strongly when told of the comment. "Justice Scalia is supposed to be very smart, but anyone who is supposed to be so smart would not and should not say something that insensitive. It is a really terrible comment, and he should be called on it."
Ortiz, who has long lobbied for the appointment of a Hispanic justice and more Hispanic law clerks to the high court, added, "This is the kind of incident that makes it so clear that the Court needs more diversity."

Dalia Lithwick, Slate's Supreme Court analyst and intellectual lightweight, thinks we should be offended at the comment:
Somehow, a remark that would have flattened us had a Souter spoken it is just a solid day at the office for Scalia. I have no idea where the tequila comment should register on the nation's macaca-meter. The more interesting question is about Scalia's deliberate carelessness with language, his sense that he is somehow above the sorts of linguistic delicacy the rest of us expect in our dealings with others. Indeed, he seems to think it's his obligation to be ever more reckless with his words, perhaps because he's about the only guy left who faces no consequences for his rhetorical body-slams.
Absurd. There is nothing in the least bit offensive in Scalia's statement. Mexico is proud of tequila; after all it's Mexico's national drink. It is simply ridiculous to think that it is improper to make an association between a country and a flattering, yet distinguishing, mark of that country.

Besides, tequila tastes good.

Hat tip: the Volokh Conspiracy

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