Saturday, December 04, 2010

“Five out of nine hotshot lawyers ...”

As one who attends Sunday Mass at St John the Beloved, United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia is a quiet and unassuming gentleman, opting for a pew in the rear. Outside of that venue, he can make both his presence and his convictions known, as he did recently at a lecture at the University of Richmond, entitled “Do Words Matter?”

“The Constitution says what it says and it doesn’t say anything more,” said Scalia to an audience of 250 people, most of them legal professionals and academics.

The 74-year-old jurist, appointed to the high court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, warned that government by judges is inevitable when the original meaning of legal language in laws and constitutions is not respected. This attitude, he said, allows “five out of nine hotshot lawyers to run the country.”

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He also commented on the modern confirmation process of Supreme Court justices, saying it was akin to a “mini-constitutional convention” because Senators are fighting about how a justice will interpret words.

“The way to change the Constitution is through amendments approved by the people, not by judges altering the meaning of its words,” he added.

Scalia's recent book, copies of which he signed at the event, is entitled Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.

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