Antonin Scalia and his Supreme sulkiness


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The Independent US

US Supreme Court Justices, one might imagine, are strenuously impartial, far removed from the political hurly-burly. They are modest and scholarly. A little dry judicial wit may be in order, but mostly they err on the boring side. Not, however, if you are Antonin Scalia.

Scalia's dissenting rant against this week's court decision to strike down most of Arizona's controversial immigration law – in which he described his colleague's views as "mind boggling" and accused the Obama administration of kowtowing to foreign governments – was pretty much par for the course. No one has ever doubted Scalia's brilliance or his knowledge of the US Constitution, of which the court is the guardian. But temperate language has never been his forte. During March's oral arguments on the Obama healthcare bill, Scalia made clear he had no intention of reading the 2,700-page document. Nor does he hide his political views. He has been intellectual powerhouse of the Supreme Court's conservative faction since his appointment by Ronald Reagan in 1986. He is also an unabashed Republican, a friend of Dick Cheney and he worked for the Republicans before joining the court.

Scalia is a supporter of strong central government – as when he led the 5-4 majority that handed the 2000 presidential election to Republican George W Bush. Arizona, though, he suggested, would never have joined the Union if had known Monday's immigration ruling in advance.

This only strengthens Democrats' view that at 76, Scalia is now a vain, cranky old man whose time is past.