Antonin Scalia: Donors Ask George Mason to Name Its Law School–from which Not One Graduate Served as His Law Clerk–for Scalia; Scalia Insulted Black People from the Dais of the Supreme Court and as a Law Professor

I will start this post with an illuminating quote from Reverend Thomas Merton’s book, “Seeds of Destruction (Letters to a White Liberal),” page 19-20:

We have been willing to grant the Negro rights on paper, even in the South. But the laws have been framed in such a way that in every case their execution has depended on the good will of white society, and the white man has not failed, when left to himself, to block, obstruct, or simply forget the necessary action without which the rights of the Negro cannot be enjoyed in fact. Hence, when laws have been passed, then contested, dragged through all of the courts, and finally upheld, the Negro is still in no position to benefit by them without, in each case, entering into further interminable lawsuits every time he wants to exercise a right guaranteed to him by law.

Conservatives seem to want to ensure a positive legacy and memory of Antonin Scalia; this is impossible. Scalia’s own behavior prevents it. The Washington Post reported that donors gave $30 million ($20 million (anonymous donor), $10 million (Charles Koch Foundation)), requesting that George Mason University (GMU) rename its law school after Scalia, who died in February 2016, Antonin Scalia School of Law (ASSoL) at George Mason University.

At American University (AU), in 2009, Scalia, a graduate of Harvard Law School, informed the law students that no one from the school could be a law clerk in his chambers.

‘By and large’, he said, ‘I’m going to be picking from the law schools that basically are the hardest to get into. They admit the best and the brightest, and they may not teach very well, but you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. If they come in the best and the brightest, they’re probably going to leave the best and the brightest, O.K.?’

So, another institution not from the “silk purse” category of law schools, George Mason University, named their law school after him,  GMU did not have one law graduate serve as his law clerk on the Supreme Court, unsurprising given what he said to the AU law students.

Scalia engaged in attacks on the powerless. On December 9, 2015, during oral argument at the Supreme Court for Fisher v. Texas, Scalia stated the following (at pages 67-8 of the Court’s transcript):

“There are–there are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to–get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less–a slower-track school where they do well. One of–one of the briefs pointed out that–that most of the–most of the black scientists don’t come from schools like the University of Texas.

They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re–that they’re being pushed ahead in–in classes that are too–too fast for them.

I’m just not impressed by the fact that–that the University of Texas may have fewer. Maybe it ought to have fewer. And maybe some–you know, when you take more, the number of blacks, really competent blacks admitted to lesser schools, turns out to be less. And–and I–I don’t think it–it–it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible. I just don’t think–.”

Shortly after the death of Scalia, Gawker reported that Scalia seemed to have a pattern of giving low grades to all black students in his classes at the University of Chicago Law School and the University of Virginia Law School. This report illuminates Scalia’s comments during the Fisher oral argument.

After an undergraduate stint at Columbia, Arnim Johnson attended the elite University of Chicago Law School in the late 1970s, during Scalia’s tenure as an instructor there. In the spring trimester of his 1L year, Johnson took administrative law with Scalia, before temporarily moving to Washington, D.C. for a summer job with the government. Upon receiving his final grades for the term, Johnson was shocked to discover he’d failed the course with a flat F—practically unheard of at a top-tier school like Chicago, or any law school for that matter.


But [Phillip] Hampton also recalls an ominous remark by Scalia: “He made a statement once that he could tell—because he was such a linguist—that he could usually tell papers that were written by African Americans.” The school finally admitted that professors “had access to the [exam] blue book numbers and names,” but only so that they could award extra credit. “I said that’s bullshit,” Hampton remembered.