Monday, March 21, 2005

Who is Antonin Scalia?
Read and find out. (Note: just in case you don't know at least this much, he is an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court). I like Scalia a lot, which probably won't come as a shock to you, and I like him for precisely the reasons laid out in this interview. For example:

But Scalia is laying out his approach and telling you in no uncertain terms how dangerous it is for American democracy and the American Constitution if judges don't follow it. Also, his dissents, which are frequent, are notoriously caustic. He'll use words like "preposterous" and "irrational" to describe what he sees as the wrongheaded thinking of his colleagues.
Perhaps most respectable about the man is the way he sticks to what he sees in the texts in question, regardless of what he'd prefer to read into them.
He would emphasize, though, that he does not reach these conclusions because they are the ones he'd prefer as a matter of policy—what he would prefer as a policy matter is, he would say, entirely irrelevant—but because, after reading the words of the Constitution or of a statute, that was the conclusion he had to reach. And it's true that he sometimes comes to conclusions that don't seem to comport with his own political or social beliefs. He likes to cite his vote in a flag-burning case, for instance, when he voted with liberals on the Court to protect flag desecration as symbolic political speech. "Scalia did not like to vote that way," he said in a speech at the University of Michigan. "He does not like sandal-wearing, bearded weirdos who go around burning flags."
The interview has a lot of good points, and I don't want to just reprint it here, but there's one question and response I want to post in full.
How does [Scalia's] stance on abortion fit into [the "originalist"] philosophy?

He would say: I look at the Constitution and I don't see anywhere in there anything about a right to abortion. And, furthermore, I don't see anywhere in there the right to privacy or autonomy that some people extrapolate from the Constitution to support the right to abortion. If you want legalized abortion—or any other new right—he would argue, you need to convince your fellow-citizens and pass a law. Unelected judges have no particular ability to divine what the moral standards are out there, and it's anti-democratic for them to impose their views.
It's a pretty clear position, and that Scalia holds to one philosophy so consistently, no matter what you think of that philosophy, shows principles. Seriously, though, read the whole thing.

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