Reporters covering Scalia harrassed, told to erase audio

A federal marshal ordered two print journalists Wednesday covering Scalia’s speech at a high school in Hattiesburg, Miss., to erase their audio recordings of the event. At other Scalia events in the same city, broadcast journalists were asked to turn off their cameras.

In what can be only described as an ultimate Constitutional irony, Scalia was praising the Constitution and its First Amendment while a federal marshal harassed reporters and curtailed their right to gather news at a public appearance,” said Joel Campell, SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee co-chair.

According to the SPJ, Scalia told students at Presbyterian Christian High School: “You may wonder what makes our Constitution so special. I am here to persuade you that our Constitution is something extraordinary, something to revere.

Why, yes, that could be considered ironic.

See this post Volokh made on this Last week - the Marshall fucked up in demanding the recordings to be erased because no warning was given prior to that speech they weren’t allowed

Scalia has long barred television cameras from his speeches, but does not always forbid newspaper photographers and tape recorders. On Wednesday, he did not warn the audience at the high school that recording devices would be forbidden

And why on earth should it be forbidden in the first place?

Because he asks them not to record. If they don’t agree, he could just as easily not talk.

That’s the real irony. Because he can show up and talk, but if you don’t let people take pictures of him, people may not bother showing up because that’s what they’re really there for. The school realized that and overturned their previous position of no cameras to allow people to take pictures of Scalia.

A Justice’s Sense of Privilege

Antoinette Konz is a young education reporter for The Hattiesburg American, a daily newspaper with a circulation of about 25,000 in Hattiesburg, Miss. Ms. Konz, 25, has only been in the business for a couple of years, so her outlook hasn’t been soiled by the cranks and the criminals, and the pretzel-shaped politicians that so many of us have been covering for too many years to count.

She considered it a big deal when one of the schools on her beat, the Presbyterian Christian High School, invited her to cover a speech that was delivered last Wednesday by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

About 300 people, many of them students, filled the school’s gymnasium for the speech. They greeted Justice Scalia with a standing ovation.

Ms. Konz and a reporter for The Associated Press, Denise Grones, were seated in the front row. They began to take notes. And when Justice Scalia began speaking, they clicked on their tape recorders.

What’s important about this story is that Justice Scalia is a big shot. Not only is he a member in good standing of the nation’s most august court, he’s almost always among those mentioned as a possible future chief justice.

Compared with him, Ms. Konz and Ms. Grones are nobodies.

Justice Scalia, the big shot, does not like reporters to turn tape recorders on when he’s talking, whether that action is protected by the Constitution of the United States or not. He doesn’t like it. And he doesn’t permit it.

“Thirty-five minutes into the speech we were approached by a woman who identified herself as a deputy U.S. marshal,” Ms. Konz told me in a telephone conversation on Friday. “She said that we should not be recording and that she needed to have our tapes.”

In the U.S., this is a no-no. Justice Scalia and his colleagues on the court are responsible for guaranteeing such safeguards against tyranny as freedom of the press. In fact, the speech Mr. Scalia was giving at the very moment the marshal moved against the two reporters was about the importance of the Constitution.

Ms. Konz said neither she nor Ms. Grones wanted to comply with the marshal’s demand.

“It was very distracting, very embarrassing,” she said. “We were still trying to listen to what he was saying.”

The marshal, Melanie Rube, insisted.

The A.P. reporter tried to explain that she had a digital recording device, so there was no tape to give up. Ms. Konz said the deputy seemed baffled by that.

Eventually both recordings were seized.

Ms. Konz told me: “All I was doing with that tape recorder was making sure that I was not going to misquote the justice. My only intention was to report his words accurately.”

Scalia and the Fourth Amendment: Justice Scalia really ought to apologize to the reporters whose recordings of his speech were illegally seized and erased by federal marshals. I know that Scalia did not ask or authorize the marshals to do this, but they were acting on his behalf, in an attempt to enforce with his anti-recording policy. It would be a gesture worthy of a man of his stature.

UPDATE: It turns out that Scalia already has apologized. Good for him!

Ok, but now he should apologize for saddling this country and the world with the so-called “leadership” we have now. Oh wait, this is what he wanted. Sad for us.

Wait a minute, wait a minute. The guy apologized for a misdeed. Sometimes an apology just doesn’t cut it, but I think this is one of those cases where an apology was exactly what was needed. He did the right thing… so why turn the apology into an excuse to continue attacking him? Based on what I’ve read, I really, really don’t like Scalia. But if you condemn people you don’t like no matter what they do, it’s clear that you’re attacking them, rather than what they’re doing. Which has the double effect of making you look like a fool and making them more likely to completely ignore criticism.

I don’t normally take your off the cuff responses all that seriously, but your remark this time seems way off base.

NOTE- my post assumes that Bago’s link provides accurate information. I haven’t been following this story that closely, and I haven’t double checked the “Scalia has indeed apologized” claim.

Well put, Anaxagoras.

He not only apologized for the actions of the Marshals, he has also agreed to let future speeches be recorded by the print media to avoid a future kerfuffle like this.

I don’t see why he continues to bar cameras, but it’s clear that Scalia has thought about this and wants to make concessions to the media - who did nothing wrong here.

There is no justice on the Supreme Court I have less regard for than Scalia, but he did the right thing here by taking responsibility for the actions of the marshals in his entourage.


Anax, yes indeed, I am guilty of pointing out some of his other misdeeds, the major one, in fact. If he apologized for the marshall incident, that’s good but it doesn’t get him off the hook for one of the most egregious Supreme Court actions ever.

Politics before manners! To the death!