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Constitutional Interpretation and Judicial Nominations
Justice Antonin Scalia gave a speech two days ago at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars on the topic of Constitutional Interpretation (read the transcript here, via Instapundit). This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as I am currently writing an undergraduate honors thesis that deals directly with Constitutional interpretation.
Scalia is regularly lambasted by those who don’t agree with his political ideology for being too conservative, but I have long been a fan of his written opinions; they are among the most logically consistent and easy to read examples of legal scholarship to be found. And yes, his opinions are works of legal scholarship, you may disagree with what he says but it’s hard to disagree with the facts and the cases he cites when making an argument.
Scalia ended his speech by talking briefly about how the current judicial nomination process is threatening to damage the Constitution. This topic was brought into sharp focus by Senate Minority Leader (and shaping up to be its chief obstructionist) Harry Reid threatened that Senate Democrats will stall any and all Senate business they can if the Republican majority modifies the Senate rules to disallow filibusters on Judicial nominations. The thing to remember is that this cuts both ways, it is seen as a “conservative” issue now, but a decade ago it was a “liberal” issue when it was Clinton's nominees that were meeting resitance from a newly elected Republican Congress. However, I can practically guarantee you that Justice Scalia’s remarks would have been the same in 1995 as they were in 2005:
You heard in the introduction that I was confirmed, close to nineteen years ago now, by a vote of ninety-eight to nothing. The two missing were Barry Goldwater and Jake Garnes, so make it a hundred. I was known at that time to be, in my political and social views, fairly conservative. But still, I was known to be a good lawyer, an honest man, somebody who could read a text and give it its fair meaning, had judicial impartiality and so forth. And so I was unanimously confirmed.
Justice Scalia's point is important. As John Marshal noted 200 years ago "It is a Constitution we are expounding," not some small piece of legislation. It deserves better than partisan vitriol and rancor. The rest of his speech is just as good, but not as topical to the current political climate. If you have time, I’d suggest you give it a read.
Posted by · 16 March 2005 08:03 PM
"My most important function on the Supreme Court is to tell the majority to take a walk."
Heh. I woulda used "to go f#@% themselves", but that's just me...
Posted by: b-psycho at March 16, 2005 11:54 PM
I think Scalia would make a good Chief Justice.
Posted by: Will Franklin at March 17, 2005 01:32 PM
Scalia would be a great Chief Justice! Our country would be lucky to have Scalia !
That b-psycho comment is just what the name implies!
Posted by: stephanie at March 17, 2005 05:13 PM