Wednesday, December 15, 2004
My favorite Justice: I finished reading Kevin Ring's compilation of the writings of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and I came away more impressed by Scalia's judicial philosophy than I was before. Though it is entitled "Scalia Dissents," not all of the opinions contained in the book are dissents. Ring outlines Scalia's judicial philosophy by using his written opinions as examples. Scalia was recently criticized by former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean as lacking judicial temperment (pot meet kettle), and the tone of many of his written opinions might appear to bear that out. However, as Ring points out, while judicial temperment is important for a trial judge, it is far less important for appellate judges. Whose feelings are Scalia's barbs going to hurt? High-priced lawyers? Are his sometimes caustic remarks going to intimidate his colleagues on the Supreme Court? There's little evidence that that has ever occurred.
For each area of constitutional (and sometimes unconstitutional) law, Ring provides some insight and background for Scalia's opinions on the subject. For those of you who aren't thrilled by the prospect of reading stale judicial opinions, rest assured that Scalia is never dull or boring. A few of the opinions Ring uses I remember reading before, especially the one regarding golfer Casey Martin's suit against the PGA Tour, but several of them were new to me.
The one thing that impressed me throughout about Scalia's opinions is his consistency in applying his judicial philosophy and his fearlessness at confronting his colleagues on the high court when they twist the law and the Constitution to come up with the desired outcome.
For anyone who is interested in the law and how the Supreme Court has too often asserted itself as an unelected legislature, "Scalia Dissents" is a must-read. Oh to have a court filled with Scalias, the United States would be a much more democratic place.