Thinking: The Lost Art

With the recent passing of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia the divide between liberal and conservative thinkers is being dramatically highlighted. This is a link to the most intelligent response I’ve heard: I’m a liberal lawyer. Clerking for Scalia taught me how to think about the law.

Quoting Tara Kole writing in The Washington Post:

And, in some ways, the job [clerk for a Supreme Court Judge] is a strange one. To assist in the writing of opinions, clerks have to get inside a justice’s mind to think as they do and to write as they would. My role was to facilitate his, and sometimes that was easier than others. In one case I worked on writing a dissent — the position held by a minority of the court — with which I fundamentally disagreed on a moral level, but found, as I wrote, that I was drawn to Scalia’s reasoning; his emphasis on precedent, strict textual construction and judicial restraint. While I remain bound not to discuss details of the cases I worked on, I can say that Scalia’s arguments in that case conveyed a clarity not found in the majority’s opinion, which relied on legal and verbal gymnastics in order to reach the desired outcome. His approach had a logic and simplicity that resonated with me, despite my politics. I found myself able to get inside his mind in that moment, to sublimate my own views, and write confidently in his voice. I was proud when my co-clerk told me that Scalia had called it a “knock out.”

I seldom find people that can look beyond their own beliefs and opinions.

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