“By and large, I’m going to be picking from the law schools that basically are the hardest to get into,” Scalia said. “They admit the best and the brightest, and they may not teach very well, but you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. If they come in the best and the brightest, they’re probably going to leave the best and the brightest, O.K.?”
Did he switch around the phrasing of that idiom? Or am I just stupid? I'm guessing it's the latter...
He switched it around on purpose. The usual phrasing implies that that no matter how much value you add, you can't get a high quality product from a low quality input. He's saying that even though HYS doesn't add any value, you can't get a low quality product from a high quality input.
It's interesting to contrast this with a quote from Henderson's article:
This system and the current market fail to discern between a legal education done well versus one done poorly.
Henderson is lamenting that employers fail to discern the difference between good legal education and bad legal education. Scalia is saying that he's not failing to discern between good legal education and bad legal education, but that he doesn't care because he doesn't think it's a value-add either way. He's just interested in the sorting function.