Saturday, May 01, 2004

J. Antonin Scalia

Looks like conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia's big mouth may keep him from becoming the future Chief Justice. Check this out:

In emphatic phrases punctuated by operatic gesticulation, [Scalia] then launched into an attack on a series of the most important Supreme Court decisions of the last 40 years. The court was wrong, he said, to say the Constitution requires that lawyers be provided to poor people accused of crimes. It was wrong, too, to find that the First Amendment imposes limits on libel lawsuits. "We have now determined," he continued, "that liberties exist under the federal Constitution — the right to abortion, the right to homosexual sodomy — which were so little rooted in the traditions of the American people that they were criminal for 200 years."

Too bad we can't put him in a time machine and send him back to a time when the Constitution was not understood in the broader way it is today, I'm sure he'd really enjoy it. The US Constitution is a living document that grows and evolves with the nation. As to becoming the Chief Justice:

These days, while he remains the great hope of many conservatives, even some of his admirers say his public profile in a bitterly divided Washington has made such a move unlikely. ... Indeed, many experts say that the nation's polarized political environment and Justice Scalia's high profile would doom any chance he has of succeeding Chief Justice Rehnquist.

Scalia claims: "I am a textualist," he said. "I am an originalist. I am not a nut." Well, the guy can write well, and he doesn't always go the way you'd think. For instance, he voted for and wrote an opinion that made it illegal for police to use scanning equipent to observe you in your home from through the walls with devices that can make hear signature readings off the walls (while some of the more liberal justices voted that it was a-ok). But then he also dissented in a case that made executing retarded people illegal, claiming that the ban was irrational and based only on the opinion of the members of the court (shocker here, I love how when the law is one a person agrees with it is precedent, and when it is something they do not like it is merely an opinion).

Lawrence Lessig is a famous law professor, particularly in the area of copyright and cyberlaw. He (although considered a bit of a lefty now himself) says Scalia has veered hard to the right recently:

"When I worked for him, he had a set of principles, and those principles led to principled results, which were sometimes conservative and sometimes liberal," said Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford who was also a law clerk to Justice Scalia. "I don't understand anymore how his jurisprudence follows from his principles."

Via The New York Times.


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