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Justice Scalia: Like All of Us, There Was Both Good and Bad

by Stephen Yearwood, published

Justice Anton Scalia died, and there is always sadness in death. People loved him and cared about him and will miss him.

Justice Scalia was also an important member of the Supreme Court. Intellectually, he was a devout ‘originalist.’ In that, he was at best wrongheaded.

Originalism is the doctrine that we must apply the Constitution to the issues of today based on what the words in it, and arguments for and against it, meant to the people who debated and wrote that monumental document.

That is perhaps the most absurd notion ever to be taken seriously in the history of notions: it is impossible to know what those words meant to those people. We can be certain, however, that the words in it and related to it had different meanings for different people, just as words today have different meanings for different people.

Even if it might be a good idea to base the judgments of today on the meanings of words to people back then, there would obviously be more than one interpretation of what those meanings were. Justice Scalia obviously intended that we should all abide by his interpretation of the meanings those words had for those people way back then.

I detested the style of Justice Scalia. In it, he reminded me of Rush Limbaugh. It is one thing to act that way on the radio, but to me it is grotesque to employ such rhetorical antics in the chambers of our Supreme Court. Even so, I admire him and Justice Ginsberg for their exemplary behavior in their personal relationship. In that the two of them reminded all of us that, despite our differences in style, ideology, cultural preferences, etc., we can still act like human beings with regard to one another.

Photo Credit: Mark Avery/Orange County Register/ZUMA Press

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