JACKSON, Miss. – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (search), in a letter to an Associated Press reporter received Tuesday, said he learned his lesson over an incident in which a federal marshal erased recordings of a speech Scalia gave to high school students.
Scalia also vowed he would make it clear in the future that recording his remarks for the use of the print media would not be a problem.
"I have learned my lesson (at your expense), and shall certainly be more careful in the future," Scalia wrote in the letter dated Friday.
The AP reporter, Denise Grones (search), said Tuesday she was "happy Justice Scalia understands the value of a reporter doing his or her job. Print reporters usually depend heavily on their recorders to ensure accurate quotes, and that's what I was doing that day."
During the April 7 speech in Hattiesburg, a deputy federal marshal demanded that Grones and Antoinette Konz (search), a reporter for The Hattiesburg American, erase recordings of the justice's remarks.
When the AP reporter resisted, the officer took the digital recorder out of her hands. The reporter then showed Marshal Melanie Rube how to erase the recording.
Rube then reached across Grones and demanded that Konz hand over her tape. Konz surrendered the tape and, after the speech, was able to get it back only after she erased the recording in front of the marshal.
The exchange occurred in the front row of the auditorium while Scalia delivered his speech about the Constitution.
"As I understand it from press reports, a United States Marshal erased, or caused you to erase, the tape recorder that you were using for the purpose of assuring the accuracy of your press report," Scalia wrote in an apology to both reporters. "I imagine that is an upsetting and indeed enraging experience and I want you to know how it happened."
Scalia explained that in a speech earlier that day he had asked that his appearance not be recorded.
"That announcement was not repeated at the high school, but the marshals believed (with good reason) that the same policy was in effect," Scalia wrote.
"The marshals were doing what they believed to be their job, and the fault was mine for not assuring that the ground rules had been clarified."
Scalia normally bars television cameras from his appearances, but his policy on the use of small audio recorders has not been clear-cut. Newspaper and other print reporters typically use the devices to ensure the accuracy of quotations but not to record speeches or other remarks for broadcast.