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Scalia’s visit deserved publicity

Letter to the editor | Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Surely the sponsors of the recent Notre Dame Law School conference addressing what one conference organizer called “fundamental questions of American constitutional governance” can appreciate the irony in their decision not to inform the public that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a featured speaker (“Scalia spoke at ND law conference,” Oct. 30).

Defending their decision, a spokesperson for the law school was quoted as saying that had Scalia’s visit been publicized, “it would have been a mob scene.” That is one way to characterize it. Another is to say that citizens of a democracy, had they known of Scalia’s presence, might have chosen to exercise their constitutional rights to organize and dissent. Justice Scalia is often celebrated as one of the most intellectually vigorous members of the Supreme Court. He has been both lauded and reviled for his controversial decisions – decisions that affect the lives of all U.S. citizens. When the justice comes to our campus, then, he should not be smuggled in and out of Notre Dame like contraband. Rather, his visit should be made public so that ordinary citizens can express their opinions about the kind of nation that Justice Scalia seeks to create.

While such expressions may not be welcome to Justice Scalia, who reportedly requested that his presence not be made public, or to the conference organizers, they would nonetheless be evidence of a vibrant – and fundamental – democratic impulse.

John Duffy

English professor

Oct. 30

Editor’s note: In an email to The Observer Tuesday, Law School spokesperson Melanie McDonald modified her earlier remarks to The Observer and said the decision not to publicize Scalia’s appearance was conference organizer A.J. Bellia’s preference, not Scalia’s. The justice’s appearance “went unpublicized because it was meant to be a purely educational endeavor at the Law School, and widespread publicity may have taken focus off of that objective,” she wrote.