Constitution Not a Living Document. It's Dead, Dead, Dead
Justice Antonin Scalia joined SMU law professor Bryan A. Garner Monday night for a discussion of their latest collaboration – “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Text.” I checked the law school’s website for video; but as is typically the case when Supreme Court justices speak candidly in this kind of forum, video is hard to come by. But the Dallas News shared a few highlights.
DALLAS NEWS: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says a key part of interpreting the law properly is reaching decisions even when they contradict one’s beliefs.
“The judge who always likes the results he reaches is a bad judge,” he told an audience Monday evening at Southern Methodist University.
He and SMU law professor Bryan A. Garner shared the stage at McFarlin Auditorium for a lecture on their second book together, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Text.
The last part here is classic Scalia.
“It’s not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead,” he said.
I overheard a conversation a few weeks back a few teenagers were having about something their “Government” teacher told them at school. They were talking about how the Founding Fathers couldn’t have envisioned things like television, the Internet or same sex marriage. I’m not sure how the third one there fit in the equation, but that was hardly the reason I was troubled by the conversation. Regardless of their positions or political persuasions, each and every one of them seemed convinced the Constitution was a “living document.” I was immediately taken back to my own public school “social studies” classes and was quickly reminded that I too was fed that load of garbage.
While I’m not one to challenge Justice Scalia on such things, I do think a further explanation of his comments helps round out the argument. The Constitution is not “living” in the sense that it’s not open for debate or malleable to changes in culture or social norms. But it is “living” in the sense that it can “change” through the amendment process. Beyond that, the whole “living document” garbage is just that… garbage.
Parting Question: Is there anyone in “politics” more fascinating that Justice Scalia? Forget sharing a beer with the President Obama. I’d settle for coffee and donuts with Scalia any day. Beer would just be a bonus.
No surprise. The “Dead, dead, dead” line is grabbing most of the headlines. More at Memeorandum…