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Sunday, November 05, 2006 

Twenty Years of Scalia

Terry Eastland of The Weekly Standard has written an excellent cover story about Justice Antonin Scalia and his impact on American legal culture. The article is much more than just a Scalia biography. Eastland traces the changing role of judges and the rise of textualism as a form of statutory interpretation. It's a nice historical overview that helps explain how we got to our current Constitutional law/Supreme Court situation. There's even a quote from Marquette poli sci Professor Christopher Wolfe.

Eastland explains Scalia's basic philosophy...
Scalia's view of what a good judge is starts with the fact that ours is a constitutional democracy. We are a people (Scalia would say) who have chosen to govern ourselves through a written Constitution to which we have not assigned every authority, as we have left some to the states. (Federalism is what we call this dual sovereignty.) We have taken the legislative, executive, and judicial powers, and vested them in, respectively, Congress, the president, and the judiciary. And while Congress and the president share in the exercise of some powers--for example, the president and the Senate share the power to appoint (but not to nominate) judges--the judiciary does not. It exercises only the judicial power. And, in cases of law, for Scalia as for the Framers, the judicial power is the power to interpret the law, not to make it.
The article goes on for some length and is very well done. Eastland really takes the time to explain why statutory and Constitutional interpretation are important and how different methods tend to reach very different results. Scalia is on the cover, drawn in typical Weekly Standard fashion, so this might be worth owning in hardcopy.

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