LaRouche Heckler Disrupt Scalia AEI Speech

AP reporter Elizabeth White reports that Justice Antonin Scalia asked that a heckler be thrown out for no apparent reason during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute yesterday.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia grew tired of a persistent heckler Tuesday and asked organizers of a legal seminar to do something about the outbursts – gently. “Don’t use force,” Scalia told American Enterprise Institute workers as they grabbed the young man’s arm and nudged him toward the door. The workers then let go and the man walked out.

It was unclear what Aaron Yule, 23, of Boston, was asking when Scalia turned to organizers and said, “Can you, somebody …”

Earlier, a microphone had been snatched from the man’s hand when he tried to engage the justice in debate. Scalia had asked him whether he had a question, “apart from insults.”

[…]

After the man left, Scalia answered questions for about 15 minutes but repeatedly declined to engage anyone who asked questions, even of an apparently friendly nature, that he felt were not related to his topic – the use of foreign law by U.S. courts.

“I feel really bad about it,” said Veronique Rodman, an AEI spokeswoman. “There’s no excuse for rudeness.”

Oh, the horror! Scalia, you brute!

Ted Frank, who was in attendance, offers an alternate version of events:

The second person to pose a question seized the microphone, and went on a lengthy rant about Vice President Cheney, and refused to ask a question after multiple prompts to do so; on the last one, he started “That…,” Scalia said “A question doesn’t begin with the word ‘That,'” and moved on. The questioner (a Google search shows that he’s a member of LaRouche Youth) continued to interrupt proceedings, and was eventually removed. There continued to be a mix of intelligent questions (Tom Goldstein and Michael Greve engaged the justice) and provocateurs wanting to make a splash on C-SPAN. Scalia answered questions about his speech, and passed on other questions, but, as if a glutton for punishment (or at least confrontation), he continued to select scruffy leftists/LaRouche Youth who raised their hands (including a German woman who went on a rant about Leibniz), though it would have been easy to bypass them.

Somehow, the second version strikes me as infinitely more plausible.

For one thing, Scalia has been on the High Court for twenty years now and has given scores of speeches in that capacity. Along with Clarence Thomas, he’s the Court’s most controversial figure. It is inconceivable to me that he doesn’t know how to deal with intense questions from scruffy people who think they’re in his intellectual league.

Moreover, I have been to several of these type events in D.C. People who show up to protest and disrupt events are commonplace. They are invariably escorted out after being allowed a short outburst.

Additionally, I am willing to bet that the “it” that Rodman feels bad about and the “rudeness” for which there is no excuse was the heckler’s, not Scalia’s. I am investigating.

Update: Eugene Volokh argues that focusing on the heckler, rather than the substance of what a Supreme Court Justice has to say about the use of international law in judicial interpretation, is “unserious.” In AP’s defense, though, they often send out multiple stories on a single event. It may well be that a substantive piece is out there or forthcoming. As of 6:44 a.m. Eastern time–12 hours after this story hit the wires–there does not appear to be one.

Update 2: I spoke with Ms. Rodman and my suspicions were confirmed. See, LaRouche Heckler at Scalia AEI Speech: Update

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    I saw the event on CSpan. The second version is far closer to the truth – the hecklers were truly mindless and disruptive. Except for the German woman, who, it seemed to me, was cut off and dismissed in the midst of a serious question – for reasons I could not figure out.

  2. Steven Plunk says:

    I watched on C-span as well. Those idiots should have been given the bums rush not gently removed. They completely ignored the rights of serious people in attendance to grandstand their loony tripe.

    Justice Scalia should be commended for putting up with crap like this. The guy gives these speeches when he doesn’t have to and gets this kind of treatment.

    When the opposition has to resort to these tactics you know how weak their arguments really are.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Tano: One suspects the default position goes from “there might be a serious question here” to “this is probably a nut” fairly quickly after a couple of crank questioners.