Dallas Morning News Editor Plays Brilliant Game of Email Dodgeball, Ctd.

Yesterday, I congratulated an editor at the Dallas Morning News for expertly dodging a question about how an “acontextual quotation” (Bryan Garner’s term) in the paper severely twisted something that Justice Antonin Scalia said at a talk given at SMU. Scalia was talking about the Constitution. The quote as printed in the paper:

“It’s not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead.”

The full quote according to Garner:

“I used to say that the Constitution is not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead. But I’ve gotten better. I no longer say that. The truth is that the Constitution is not one that morphs. It’s an enduring Constitution, not a changing Constitution. That is what I’ve meant when I’ve said that the Constitution is dead.”

Today, the DMN editor, Chris Siron, responded again. This time, he appears to cast aspersions on Garner:

I am continuing to review the article you asked me about Thursday afternoon.

I have spoken to Professor Garner, and he and I have exchanged several e-mails while I study this situation.

Our reporter was not allowed to record the Jan. 28 event. Professor Garner has indicated he does not have a transcript or, as I understand it, a recording.

Also, I have been unable to verify a point Professor Garner raised in the letter you quoted. Although he says The Dallas Morning News published a front-page article about an appearance by Justice Ginsburg at Southern Methodist University, I have not found documentation for such an article in our archives.

That additional point is unrelated to the question you submitted to me, but it confirms I must consider everything carefully.

I have determined that the Jan. 29 article included a typographical mistake. We printed the title of the book Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts as Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Text. I submitted a clarification last week for my supervisors’ approval.

Siron appears to be correct. I, too, could not find a front-page story about Ginsburg’s appearance at SMU (in 2011, I presume). Siron is saying that since Garner got that detail wrong, he might very well have misremembered Scalia’s quote.

Well, this should be easy enough. Seventeen hundred people attended that Garner-Scalia talk at SMU on January 28. Surely one of you can tell us what you recall of Scalia’s quote. Help us out in the comments.


  • profbarium

    I was there. This looks like the editor is just sticking up for his reporter. Which is commendable, even though the quotation was edited to greatly distort its meaning. Justice Scalia took great pains to clarify his remarks after he said the Constitution was “dead, dead, dead.” And the DMN article doesn’t reflect that at all.

  • Tim Rogers

    Mystery solved. Thank you so much. And now, once again, the ball is back in Chris Siron’s court. Did his writer include only the abbreviated quote, or was it shortened in the editing process?

  • Bobtex

    What is most disturbing is that Justice Scalia refuses to allow recording of his public speeches (which contributes to this back-and-forth over his context). He is a public officidal, at the apex of one of the three branches of our federal government, yet he feels a need to prevent accurate reporting of his words and actions. There is no doubt that he said the words “dead, dead, dead.” He has used exactly those words many times to describe the Constitution. Because of his refusal to allow recording of his public appearances, it is difficult to assess his context. If he should decide to allow the public greater access to his public speeches, he might avoid this type of dispute in the future.

  • Anonymous Attorney

    As an attendee at the Scalia-Garner event, I can confirm that Garner’s quote from Scalia is accurate, if not exact. Another partner at my law firm read the above quote and said the same thing.

  • my2cents

    I too was present. Garner’s quote is correct. Scalia made it clear that the Constitution does not change over time. It is not a “living” document. I think the “DEAD DEAD DEAD” line was a joke that he used when he was talking to some elementary school children about what they know about the Constitution. In response the children described the constitution as a “living” document. Scalia responded, “not true, the document is ‘DEAD DEAD DEAD'”.

  • Templeton

    Are you kidding me? These blog posts are inane. Mr. Rogers, you assume the Scalia quote is truncated and that the DMN article somehow inadequate. These are bold assumptions given that this entire “controversy” results from Mr. Garner’s self-serving letter to the DMN. Could it be that Mr. Garner is simply trying to garner (pun intended) publicity for his new book by sending “open letters” to the DMN? Yes, it could. Blatantly, Mr. Garner criticizes DMN for not putting his story on the front page, and because the article was too short. Since when does being editor-in-chief of a law dictionary give you the right to dictate how the press covers so-called news?

    In any event, the editor’s responses to Mr. Rogers’ asinine inquiries appear entirely appropriate. In short, he received concerns about the article and is looking into the matter. Does the DMN have a reputation for not correcting past articles or something? It’s hilarious that this blogger has nothing better to do and thinks he’s entitled to IMMEDIATE responses from the newspaper.

  • Templeton

    So, is DMN obligated to issue a reprint, citing one profbarium as a source?

  • buyumnow

    Freedom from the Government is the overriding FACT about the Constitution

  • Avid Reader

    1700 people attended. Anyone hear Scalia quit talking cold after “Dead. Dead. Dead”?

  • Bobtex

    If he expressly refuses to allow the public to record his views, then how does this become “an enduring record of his views”? If he is not willing to stand by his statements, perhaps he should just refrain from speaking in public.

  • Tim Rogers

    You’ve asked me to respond to your questions. They are all rhetorical. And, in one case, you went ahead and answered it yourself.

  • Templeton

    Thus you prove to be a master of the dodgeball game you accuse DMN editor of playing. Well played. But to be clear, my questions are: (1) how is the article “grossly inadequate”? And, (2) What sort of revision would satisfy you?

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