This is NOT What I Wanted to Read

The New Orleans Times-Picayune had a recent piece (minor piddling registration required) on a recent speech given by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the rightest of the conservative right-wing justices on the Court.

What did Scalia say that I didn’t want to hear?

“It is literally true that the U.S. Supreme Court has entirely liberated itself from the text of the Constitution,” Scalia said at a conference Uptown on the merit selection of judges.

Well, I’ve believed that for some time, but hearing it from a sitting Justice doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies. He says also:

Ideally, Scalia said he would choose merit selection of judges. But when you have courts trying to rewrite laws, he said, “there’s a lot to be said for electing judges.”

Scalia blasted the existing system, which he said allows courts to change the laws, and not the people.

“What ‘we the people’ want most of all is someone who will agree with us as to what the evolving constitution says,” he said.

“We are free at last, free at last,” he said. “There is no respect in which we are chained or bound by the text of the Constitution. All it takes is five hands.”

Scalia, who was nominated by President Reagan in 1986 and confirmed by a Senate vote of 98-0, said these days a so-called conservative judge is politically frozen out of the process.

“What in the world is a moderate interpretation of the text?” he asked, drawing soft laughter from the audience. “Halfway between what it really says and what you want it to say?”

This is supposed to be a nation based on the rule of law. We know what happens to societies in which the rule of law fails, yet what Justice Scalia has said leaves no doubt that the rule of law has been essentially abandoned all the way up to the Supreme Court. Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in his dissent to U.S. v. Olmstead

Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subject to the rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for the law. It invites every man to become a law unto himself. It invites anarchy.

And we’re seeing that, more and more, every day. Aren’t we.

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