WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Antonin Scalia seems solidly old-fashioned. He's devoted to the Constitution's original meaning, prefers the Roman Catholic Mass in Latin and opposes TV cameras in the Supreme Court.
But the 74-year-old Scalia wants it known that he owns an iPod and an iPad and does so much work on his computer that he "can hardly write in longhand anymore."
Scalia revealed his embrace of modern technology at a Thursday dinner of the conservative Federalist Society, which he helped launch nearly 30 years ago to combat perceived liberal bias on the nation's law school faculties.
The Supreme Court justice was not so much the after-dinner speaker as the entertainment, joining CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford for an hourlong conversation in front of 1,400 adoring conservatives.
Scalia's iPod is filled with classical and operatic tunes, music he put there himself.
The iPad has been useful for storing the voluminous legal briefs that are the guts of every high court case. Scalia said he no longer has to — and here he employed the precise legal term — "schlep the briefs around."
Said the longest-serving justice: "It's a brave new world."
Yet that great invention of the 20th century, television, still has no place on Scalia's Supreme Court.
He offered several rationales for excluding cameras from the court's argument sessions, which the C-SPAN cable network has offered to air gavel to gavel.
Almost all the court's cases are dull, he said, asserting that there would not be widespread interest in watching arguments about pensions, bankruptcy or railroad taxes.
But in the court's heated cases about abortion, school prayer, gay rights and other high-profile topics, he said interest would be so great that broadcasters would take snippets from the arguments and air them out of context.
Scalia said he thinks the court is well served by its aloofness relative to Congress and the president. "Familiarity breeds contempt," he said. "The fact that the court is somewhat removed is a good thing."
On a practical level, he said he expects congressional pressure to allow cameras to diminish with the departure of Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who lost his Democratic primary bid for re-election this year. Specter was the "major stimulator" for legislation to open up the court to cameras, Scalia said.
Not that Scalia wouldn't be good on television. His biting wit and good comic timing are made for the medium.
Those qualities are often on display in the courtroom, for those able to watch Supreme Court arguments in person. In his opinions, Scalia is a clear and precise writer who doesn't mince words or spare his ideological allies when he disagrees with their approach or outcome.
He might once have had visions of being chief justice, but now acknowledges that serving as chief wouldn't be as much fun.
William Rehnquist served 14 years on the court before becoming chief justice at the same time Scalia joined in 1986. In his former role, Rehnquist "was a shin-kicker," Scalia said. "He wrote sharp, combative dissents."
Once he became chief justice, Rehnquist moderated his views for the good of the court, although he remained among the more conservative members.
So Scalia will serve out his time as the court's senior justice, which he became when John Paul Stevens retired in June.
Scalia was 50 when he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the Senate 98-0 in 1986. He once said he would retire in 2001 at age 65, but he clearly enjoys the job — and being on the winning side of most of the conservative-leaning's court 5-4 decisions — too much to retire.
"I will leave the minute I think I've lost a step," Scalia said.
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