Antonin ScaliaSo, the Honorable Justice Antonin Scalia — renown legal genius and reigning undisputed heavyweight champion of biting rhetorical snark — has now been reduced to making clandestine corrections to one of his famously condescending dissents.  I realize this is old news now, but I’m posting it mostly as a word of simultaneous warning and relief to my students and to fellow lawyers.

The Warning: Mistakes in writing can be devastating.  When I hop on my soap box about minimizing errors, I’m not just being obsessive-compulsive (although that’s part of it).  I’m trying to spare students and colleagues the painful taste of crow.  In Scalia’s case, the crow tasted like weeks of unrelenting online crucifixion by critics of all shapes and persuasions.  In the case of lawyers and paralegals, crow might taste like a loss of employer confidence, a demotion, a fleeting job opportunity, or even (with the right mix of mishap and happenstance) a lash of legal malpractice liability.

Salt with that Crow?The Relief: As much as we do want to avoid mistakes, we can also take solace in the fact that all human beings make them — even handily-staffed Harvard Law grads with thirty years of tenure on the Highest Court in the Land.  At the end of the day, Scalia is still a renown legal genius and still “the intellectual anchor for the originalist and textualist position in the Court’s conservative wing.”   He might be able to rinse his mouth of crow a bit more quickly than we lowly students, para-professionals, and lawyers can.  But I hope Scalia can still serve as a reminder that whenever we fall, we can always (and must always) simply stiffen up the upper lip and thunder forth.

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