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Nino Scalia: Hollywood’s Justice


As the climate in Washington, D.C. descends into the torrid, who can blame Nino Scalia for accepting an invitation that involves travel far to the North? It seems the nation’s most controversial judge is up in Ottawa attending an international conference on national security and counter-terrorism law. And the comments of a Canadian judge caused him some offense.

What were the remarks that got Scalia so worked up? A swipe at the Bush administration? An assertion of Canadian cultural supremacy? No. It seems it was a critique of Scalia’s favorite television program. The Globe and Mail reports:

Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge’s passing remark – “Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra ‘What would Jack Bauer do?’ ” – got the legal bulldog in Judge Scalia barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent’s rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

“Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?” Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. “Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don’t think so.

The Globe and Mail reports that Scalia was all by his lonesome on this, other judges were taking none of it. But Scalia was adamant, and made clear that “24” shaped his perception of what was right:

Even if a real terrorist who suffered mistreatment is released because of complaints of abuse, Judge Scalia said, the interruption to the terrorist’s plot would have ensured “in Los Angeles everyone is safe.” During a break from the panel, Judge Scalia specifically mentioned the segment in Season 2 when Jack Bauer finally figures out how to break the die-hard terrorist intent on nuking L.A. The real genius, the judge said, is that this is primarily done with mental leverage. “There’s a great scene where he told a guy that he was going to have his family killed,” Judge Scalia said. “They had it on closed circuit television – and it was all staged. … They really didn’t kill the family.”

Jane Mayer’s amazing piece on “24” published recently in the New Yorker made clear that the producers of the piece had a transparently political agenda, which was to legitimize the torture tactics used by the Bush Administration. There can be no doubt that the show has had an impact. But influencing one of the world’s best known judges – who would have thought of that?

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