U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia oversaw the reversal of a historic 100-year-old court ruling on Monday, but it was all for show.
“This will be one of those unpublished decisions that will not be citable before the Supreme Court,” Scalia joked after announcing the outcome of Lochner v. New York following less than 30 minutes of deliberation at a mock hearing held at Chapman University in Orange.
In 1905, the court ruled in favor of Joseph Lochner, a bakery owner, and against the state of New York, which had enacted laws limiting the number of hours his employees could work. Such laws, the high court reasoned at the time, were a violation of the employer’s liberty and right to due process.
A century later, however, the argument ended differently, with the mock judges ruling Monday that states could restrict working hours.
It was part of an exercise during which Scalia and others, including professors, law students and California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, revisited the famous case on its 100th anniversary.
It was also the Chapman School of Law’s 10th anniversary.
“It’s an opportunity for students to witness and be involved in an important decision that affects the life of our society,” Chapman Law School Dean Parham H. Williams said of the exercise.
It featured Scalia as Chief Justice Melville Weston Fuller, Lockyer arguing for the state of New York and Chapman law professor John C. Eastman arguing for Lochner.
The event was part of a daylong observance during which Scalia taught morning classes, attended a reception and delivered an evening lecture.
Scalia said the original meaning of the Constitution was being lost by “activist judges” who had created an “annually revised” Constitution. One result, he said, was an unprecedented politicalization of the judicial nomination process.
“One is tempted to shield one’s eyes from the upcoming spectacle” of the U.S. Senate’s confirmation proceedings involving Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, said Scalia, who was confirmed unanimously in 1986.
The justice said he would not survive a confirmation fight today, even for a U.S. appeals court opening.
Times staff writer William Lobdell contributed to this report.