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Justice Scalia defends Bush v. Gore ruling

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Justice Antonin Scalia, in an interview to be shown on Sunday, defended the U.S. Supreme Court ruling’s that gave George W. Bush the presidency and said he was not trying to impose his personal views on abortion.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia attends a National Italian American Foundation gala dinner in Washington October 13, 2007. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Scalia was interviewed for the CBS News show “60 Minutes,” an appearance timed to coincide with the publication on Monday of the book he coauthored, “Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.”

It marked the latest in a series of broadcast interviews this year by the conservative justice who once shunned the media.

The nine-member Supreme Court conducts its deliberations in secret and the justices traditionally won’t discuss pending cases in public. The court has the final word on questions of U.S. law and its rulings affect the rights of all Americans.

“I am a law-and-order guy. I mean, I confess to being a social conservative, but it does not affect my views on cases,” Scalia said on CBS, which on Thursday released excerpts of the interview.

Scalia repeated his earlier statement that people should “get over” the court’s ruling in 2000 that halted Florida’s vote recount, giving the presidential election to Republican Bush over Democrat Al Gore.

“I say nonsense,” Scalia said, when asked about critics who say the 5-4 ruling was based on politics and not justice. “Get over it. It’s so old by now.”

Scalia, who has long opposed the court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 that legalized abortion, said he was not trying to impose his personal views.

“If indeed I were ... trying to impose my own views, I would be in favor of the opposite view, which the anti-abortion people would like to see adopted, which is to interpret the Constitution to mean that a state must prohibit abortion,” Scalia said.

He said “there’s nothing” in the Constitution to support that view.

The interviews are a turnabout for Scalia, who for years has barred television and radio coverage from his public speaking events.

Justice Clarence Thomas, another member of the high court’s conservative wing who also has been disdainful of reporters, was profiled in a similar “60 Minutes” piece before the October 1 publication of his autobiography, “My Grandfather’s Son.”

In the past, the 72-year-old Scalia, who was appointed to the court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, has cited his “First Amendment right not to speak on the radio or television when I do not wish to do so.”

In 2004, his security detail forced two reporters in Mississippi to erase tape recordings of a speech he gave. Scalia later apologized and said his policy was aimed at the broadcast media, not print reporters who record his speeches to write accurate stories.

And in 2006 when a Boston reporter approached him after a mass and asked whether lawyers might question his impartiality in church-state matters, Scalia flicked his fingers under his chin in a well-known dismissive gesture.

But Scalia has embarked on an apparent media blitz this year. One possible reason for the change is that his children have urged him to do more televised public appearances. Another reason is to promote his book.

In February in London, Scalia told the BBC that some physical interrogation techniques can be used on a terrorism suspect in the event of an imminent threat such as a hidden bomb about to blow up.

Earlier this month, Scalia held an hour-long session with local high school students that was broadcast live on one of the C-SPAN cable television channels.

But while Scalia now is more open to interviews on camera, he still opposed cameras covering the Supreme Court’s arguments, and strongly criticized televised civil and criminal courts.

If the arguments were televised, he said short clips would be shown that would not accurately represent what happened.

“Why should I participate in the mis-education of the American people?,” he said.

Editing by David Wiessler