“Last year, when law professor Joel Reidenberg wanted to show his Fordham University class how readily private information is available on the Internet, he assigned a group project. It was collecting personal information from the Web about himself.
This year, after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made public comments that seemingly may have questioned the need for more protection of private information, Reidenberg assigned the same project. Except this time Scalia was the subject, the prof explains to the ABA Journal in a telephone interview.
His class turned in a 15-page dossier that included not only Scalia’s home address, home phone number and home value, but his food and movie preferences, his wife’s personal e-mail address and photos of his grandchildren, reports Above the Law.
And, as Scalia himself made clear in a statement to Above the Law, he isn’t happy about the invasion of his privacy:
“Professor Reidenberg’s exercise is an example of perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment. Since he was not teaching a course in judgment, I presume he felt no responsibility to display any,” the justice says, among other comments.
A Supreme Court spokeswoman confirmed to the ABA Journal in an e-mail that the Scalia blast to ATL “is accurately attributed to Justice Scalia.”
In response, Reidenberg tells the ABA Journal that the information gathered by his class about Scalia was all “publicly available, for free,” and wasn’t posted on the Internet by the class or otherwise further publicized. He views the dossier-gathering about a public figure as a legitimate classroom exercise intended to spark discussion about privacy law, and says he and the class didn’t intend to offend Scalia.
The availability of such information on the Web makes it possible for the government to conduct surveillance that otherwise would be much more difficult or even impossible to pursue through court orders and other official mechanisms, Reidenberg contends. And aggregation of various bits of information also can lead to more troubling use of the compiled information, he says.
“When there are so few privacy protections for secondary use of personal information, that information can be used in many troubling ways,” he writes in an e-mail to the ABA Journal. “A class assignment that illustrates this point is not one of them. Indeed, the very fact that Justice Scalia found it objectionable and felt compelled to comment underscores the value and legitimacy of the exercise.”
An ABA Journal request for comment from Scalia, routed through the court’s media information office, has not been returned.”
Needless to say, we all know what an item like this means in the midst of the current “controversy” over government surveillance. You don’t have to be a government official to get the goods on anyone — even as august an eminence as the Supreme Homophobe.
No question that he’s pissed. But leave us not forget he’s been punk’d before — by an Absolute Master.
Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court made an unusual appearance at the Juilliard School yesterday and defended the government’s right to deny funds for art it disapproves of, elaborating in person on what he has written on the bench.
He told reporters that choosing what art to subsidize is no different than the stances the government takes all the time in other areas.
“The First Amendment has not repealed the basic rule of life, that he who pays the piper calls the tune,” Justice Scalia said. “When you place the government in charge of funding art, just as when you place the government in charge of providing education, somebody has to pick the content of what art is going to be funded, what subjects are going to be taught.
“The only way to eliminate any government choice on what art is worthwhile, what art isn’t worthwhile, is to get the government totally out of the business of funding,” he said.
In a 1998 decision, Justice Scalia wrote a concurring opinion upholding a Congressional decency test for grants awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was at the center of a furor over grants to Andres Serrano, Robert Mapplethorpe, Karen Finley and others.
The idea was not new, but the circumstances were. The justice, an opera lover and a strict conservative, was part of a Juilliard symposium on American society and the arts that put him in the company of the soprano Reneé Fleming, the composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and the historian David McCullough. He acknowledged the incongruity.
“The program reads like some kind of weird I.Q. test: ‘Which of the following is out of place: diva, author, composer, lawyer,’ ” he told the audience at the Juilliard Theater. “The main business of a lawyer is to take the romance, the mystery, the irony, the ambiguity out of everything he touches.”
That’s true. . . of a bad lawyer.
“Justice Scalia expounded on his view that the First Amendment has limited application to artistic expression; of the importance of copyright law and the nature of fair use of creative materials. With Juilliard’s president, Joseph Polisi, as moderator, the participants ranged over issues like the difference between art and entertainment, commercial pressures on art, and art as an expression of history.
The tone was often jocular and nonconfrontational, but with a genteel strain of debate between Justice Scalia and Mr. Sondheim.
It began at the news conference, when the justice was asked to follow some generic comments by Mr. Sondheim about the difference between “Art with a capital A” and “art with a small a.” “I concur,” Justice Scalia said simply. “I take it back,” Mr. Sondheim quickly rejoined with a smile.
So where’s the “genteel”? Sounds like Steve had a “friend” in his caot pocket to me.
Later, Justice Scalia returned to the idea that denying funds to some artists was unavoidable, because choices must be made. When Mr. Polisi said that National Endowment grants were peer-reviewed, Mr. Sondheim said, “The problem with choices is who does the choosing, and who chooses the choosers, and that’s where you get into a thicket.”
In response to a question from the audience on how to increase arts attendance by minorities, Justice Scalia said that a “large number” of minority children come from broken homes and do not have the parental attention they need to push for interest in the arts. But race has nothing to do with it, he said.
Mr. Sondheim said the cause was also economic. “Tickets are expensive,” he said.
They even parted ways in a discussion of the definition of art. Mr. Sondheim said one element was a work’s ability to endure. Justice Scalia said that the Abbott and Costello routine “Who’s on First?” would certainly last a long time. But “it will never be art!” he said.
The composer took issue with the example, saying it was not that old and that half the people in the theater probably did not even know it. Justice Scalia called for a show of hands, and many shot up. “Ask anybody under 30,” Mr. Sondheim said. “They won’t know.”
But thanks to the great Johnny Depp, they’ll know Sweeney Todd, and as a result know a Judge Turpin when they see one.
MY but that was a close shave– wasn’t it Justice Scalia?