Monthly Archives: November 2002

Scalia: Constitution often twisted for political gain
By STEVE BOUSQUET, Times Staff Writer
– St. Petersburg Times, published November 27, 2002

TALLAHASSEE — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia captivated the capital’s power elite Tuesday with a speech that sharply criticized judges who “bend” the Constitution to suit their political agendas.

“I am not too optimistic about the future of the Supreme Court,” Scalia said. “I really think it’s going to tear us apart unless we can get back to performing a modest role.”

A statement remindful of Madonna’s recently declared upset on seeing a mother nurse in public.

Scalia was invited by Gov. Jeb Bush to speak to the Governor’s Leadership Forum. Authors, academics and business executives, many of whom share Bush’s conservative outlook, have been invited to address a cross-section of the state’s leaders.

In other words, a group of right-wing Republicans and their financial backers.

The justice spoke in the Senate chambers to about 250 people, including Raoul Cantero, the newest and youngest member of the Florida Supreme Court, and the man he replaced, former Justice Major Harding.

A name to keep in mind when it next appears in the news — which should be within the next six to eight months.

Scalia is known as an “originalist,” who believes in reading a constitutional provision in the strict context of when it was adopted. He castigated the “seductive appeal” of a “living, breathing Constitution” that changes with the times and gives judges the flexibility to impose their own political views, especially the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

A return to the Lash perchance? How about the stocks for adulterers? Select adulterers of course.

“The Constitution is not a living organism, for Pete’s sake. It’s a legal document,” Scalia said. People who support or oppose the death penalty, abortions, or “homosexual conduct” should work to pass laws, he said, not reinterpret the Constitution. He said conservatives and liberals alike can’t resist “bending” the Constitution.

And thus wecome to the heart of the matter– a place where “Pete” resides. If “Pete” should support or oppose the death penalty, or abortions or “homosexual conduct” — for like all citizens “Pete” must be placed in opposition to his emotional life should it “deviate” from the “norm” — he is told that he should work to change the laws.

The disingenuousness is simply breathtaking. The laws are being changed and challenged all the time, and their last court of appeal is The Supremes — whose views on the death penalty, abortion and “homosexual conduct” are well known.
Far more well known than the fact that —

Scalia, 66, the father of nine children was appointed to the high court by President Reagan in 1986.

and is a member of Opus Dei

Scalia was part of a five-member majority that decided the 2000 presidential election in favor of George W. Bush. But he never mentioned his famous decision, and no one raised it during a question-and-answer session.

No surprise there.

He was part of a five-member majority in 1989 that held that flag burning is a protected form of expression under the First Amendment, and he was part of a five-member majority in June that upheld Cleveland’s school voucher program — a case closely watched in Florida, where the only statewide voucher program is in effect.

Two decisions that our bought-and-paid-for right-wing media would doubtless declare are evidence of a “divided court.”

Scalia was introduced by Charles Canady, Bush’s former general counsel and now a state appeals court judge. Quoting from a description of Scalia, Canady said that “if mind were muscle, and court sessions were televised, Justice Scalia would be the Arnold Schwarzenegger of American jurisprudence.”

The Arnold of Twins or the Arnold of Conan the Barbarian ?

Televised court proceedings won’t happen, Scalia predicted.

To a question about the court’s refusal to allow its proceedings to be televised, Scalia said he might agree to it if gavel-to-gavel coverage on C-SPAN were the result. But he said what worried him was snippets — “takeouts,” he called them — on network TV news programs.

“Since I don’t have to do it, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to do it, I’m not going to do it,” Scalia said.

In other words, “Because I said so!”

During the five-week battle over the presidency in 2000, the court broke tradition and allowed audio of its proceedings to be broadcast. Even Scalia conceded that citizens would have a better understanding of the court’s workings if cameras were let inside.

And that clearly would be a bad thing.

“We don’t spend most of our time looking at the ceiling and wondering whether there should be a right to die,” Scalia said. “They would learn that most of the time we are dealing with such questions as the meaning of Section of 1326 (3) (b) (ii) of the Internal Revenue Code . . . stuff only a lawyer could love.”


Cameras, in fact, were barred from recording Scalia’s talk.

Commenting on his first visit to Florida’s capital, Scalia even had an opinion about the weather. “Such a cool and dry place. The climate is admirable,” he said

Unlike the rest of America which is bracing for the sub-zero chill currently wafting in from “The Beltway.”