It took United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia fewer than three pages Friday -- barely enough time for him to clear his throat, really -- to issue of one the most petulant dissents you are ever likely to read. Take five minutes and do that now. You won't be disappointed but you may be confused: What in the world is he talking about? you might be asking yourself. Why does he seem so mad about a choice his colleagues have just made to support the well-supported findings of a lower-court panel?
As he did two years ago when the case first reached Washington, Justice Scalia thinks it's a terrible idea for judges to force California bureaucrats to meet their constitutional obligation to humanely house the tens of thousands of inmates who have been languishing there for decades in deplorable prison conditions. But instead of arguing the merits of that question, or addressing California's continuing failure to abide by the law, or the facts as they've been revealed since 2011, the justice instead directed his scorn at his colleagues on the Court -- you know, the ones who all so famously get along so well.
What a dissent! Writing for himself and Justice Clarence Thomas, in intemperate language even for them, Justice Scalia suggested that his fellow justices (in 2011) set up California officials for failure (today) by creating an impossible series of legal and factual standards for the state to meet in granting early release to some state prisoners. Moreover, he alleged that his fellow justices orchestrated those standards in a way so as to absolve themselves from any criticism should any trouble come from the forced release of those prisoners -- a "ceremonial washing of the hands," is how he put it -- in 2011 and again last week.