U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says a key part of interpreting the law properly is reaching decisions even when they contradict one’s beliefs.
“The judge who always likes the results he reaches is a bad judge,” he told an audience Monday evening at Southern Methodist University.
He and SMU law professor Bryan A. Garner shared the stage at McFarlin Auditorium for a lecture on their second book together, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts.
Garner said that though he and Scalia differ politically, they agree on staying true to the law and on separating politics from legal interpretation.
“I will tell you that my political beliefs are different from those of Justice Scalia,” he said.
Garner supports gay marriage and favors stricter gun control laws.
But Scalia, who is regarded as one of the most conservative justices on the high court, declined to contrast his opinions on such matters.
“I haven’t expressed my views of either of those,” Scalia interjected. “You’re a bleeding heart.”
He said law schools don’t adequately emphasize that decisions should reflect the letter of the law.
He spoke of schoolchildren coming to visit the Supreme Court and calling the Constitution a “living document.”
“It’s not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead,” he said.
Justice Scalia believes the law must be taken literally and interpreted as it was written more than two centuries ago. You simply can not do that. Societal norms have progressed and you can not rationally argue that times and society has not changed. If times and society have changed since the drafting of the Constitution, then you can not apply the Constitution as it was understood 200 years ago to the norms of today’s society. You can not apply the best thinking of 200 years ago to society today. Imagine what this country would be like if we applied today’s societal norms to those of 200 years in the future.