The Textualist Jurisprudence of Justice Scalia
Ralph A. Rossum
Salvatori Professor of American Constitutionalism
Claremont McKenna College
Claremont, CA 91711
In A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law, Justice Antonin
Scalia criticizes the tendency of federal judges to ignore the text of the Constitution
or statues and to adopt the attitude of the common-law judge -- the mind-set
that asks, What is the most desirable resolution of this case, and how
can any impediments to the achievement of that result be evaded?
 He condemns their tendency to treat the Constitution as the Living
Constitution, a 'morphing' document that means, from age to age, what it ought
to mean" (Scalia, p. 7). He urges judges instead to adopt a textualist
approach where, in the words of Amy Gutmann, editor of the volume, their interpretations
are "guided by the text and not by intentions or ideals external to it,
and by the original meaning of the text, not by its evolving meaning over time"
A Matter of Interpretation consists of a major essay by Justice Scalia, based
on his 1995 Tanner Lectures on Human Values delivered at Princeton University,
entitled "Common Law Courts in a Civil Law System: The Role of United States
Federal Courts in Interpreting the Constitution and Laws." Commentaries
on his essay by Gordon S. Wood, Laurence H. Tribe, Mary Ann Glendon, and Ronald
Dworkin follow, as does Scalia's response to these commentators. The gravamen
of these commentaries is that a textualist approach has never effectively limited
judges in the United States (Wood), no longer appears to limit even judges in
the civil law tradition (Glendon), and clearly ought not to limit contemporary
judges in their endeavors to advance the common good as they understand it (Tribe
While Scalia advocates and defends textualism in his essay in A Matter of
Interpretation, he largely takes its underpinnings for granted and never fully
articulates its premises. What follows is a survey of the contours of Scalia's
textualist jurisprudence, as it is found not only in this book but elsewhere
in his many opinions and other writings, where his views are stated more passionately,
energetically, and humorously.
Since ascending the High Bench in 1986, Justice Scalia has assiduously and
consistently pursued a textualist jurisprudence. He argues that primacy must
be accorded to the text, structure, and history of the document being interpreted
and that the job of the judge is to apply the clear textual language of the
Constitution or statute, or the critical structural principle necessarily
implicit in the text. If the text is ambiguous, yielding several conflicting
interpretations, Scalia turns to the specific legal tradition flowing from
that text -- to "what it meant to the society that adopted it."
"Text and tradition" is a phrase that fills Justice Scalia's opinions.
Judges are to be governed only by the "text and tradition of the Constitution,"
not by their "intellectual, moral, and personal perceptions." As he
remarked in his concurring opinion in Schad v. Arizona: "[W]hen judges
test their individual notions of 'fairness' against an American tradition that
is deep and broad and continuing, it is not the tradition that is on trial,
but the judges."
For Scalia, reliance on text and tradition is a means of constraining judicial
discretion. Scalia believes that "the main danger in judicial interpretation
of the Constitution -- or, for that matter, in judicial interpretation of any
law -- is that the judges will mistake their own predilections for the law."
Faithful adherence to the text of a constitutional or statutory provision or,
if that is ambiguous, to the traditional understanding of those who originally
adopted it, reduces the danger that judges will substitute their beliefs for
society's. As Scalia observed in response to a question by Senator Howard Metzenbaum
during his Senate confirmation hearings:
[A] constitution has to have ultimately majoritarian underpinnings. To be
sure a constitution is a document that protects against future democratic excesses.
But when it is adopted, it is adopted by democratic process. That is what legitimates
it. . . . [I]f the majority that adopted it did not believe this unspecified
right, which is not reflected clearly in the language, if their laws at the
time do not reflect that that right existed, nor do the laws at the present
date reflect that the society believes that right exists, I worry about my deciding
that it exists. I worry that I am not reflecting the most fundamental, deeply
felt beliefs of our society, which is what a constitution means, but rather,
I am reflecting the most deeply felt beliefs of Scalia, which is not what I
want to impose on the society.
For Scalia, the Court's opinions in the companion cases of Board of County
Commissioners, Wabaunsee County v. Umbehr and O'Hare Truck Service v. Northlake
fully demonstrate the justices' willingness to substitute their beliefs for
the traditional beliefs of society. In his combined dissent in these cases,
Scalia ridiculed the "Court's Constitution-making process" that
prompted his colleagues to declare that the Freedom of Speech Clause of the
First Amendment protects private contractors from government retaliation for
their exercise of political speech (in the former case, a trash hauler alleged
that he had lost a county contract after he criticized the board in a letter
to the editor of a local newspaper, and in the latter, a towing firm alleged
that it was barred from getting towing referrals after the owner refused to
contribute to the mayor's reelection). Scalia noted that "rewarding one's
allies" and "refusing to reward one's opponents" is "an
American political tradition as old as the Republic." Zeroing in on this
old tradition, he asked: "If that long and unbroken tradition of our people
does not decide these cases, then what does? The constitutional text is assuredly
as susceptible of one meaning as of the other; in that circumstance, what constitutes
a 'law abridging the freedom of speech' is either a matter of history or else
it is a matter of opinion. Why are not libel laws such an 'abridgment'? The
only satisfactory answer is that they never were." Scalia's anger was palpable:
"What secret knowledge, one must wonder, is breathed into lawyers when
they become Justices of this Court, that enables them to discern that a practice
which the text of the Constitution does not clearly proscribe, and which our
people have regarded as constitutional for 200 years, is in fact unconstitutional?"
Scalia understands that the Constitution creates two conflicting systems of
rights: one is democratic -- the right of the majority to rule individuals;
the other is antidemocratic -- the right of individuals to have certain interests
protected from majority rule. Scalia relies on the Constitution's text to define
the respective spheres of majority and minority freedom, and when that fails
to provide definitive guidance, Scalia turns to tradition. He argues that tradition,
and not the personal values of the justices, is to tell the Court when the majoritarian
process is to be overruled in favor of individual rights. He believes that
by identifying those areas of life traditionally protected from majority rule,
the Court can objectively determine which individual freedoms the Constitution
protects. As he argued in his dissent in Umbehr and O'Hare Truck Service,
"I would separate the permissible from the impermissible on the basis of
our Nation's traditions, which is what I believe sound constitutional adjudication
Scalia therefore would overrule the majority only when it has infringed upon
an individual right explicitly protected by the text of the Constitution or
by specific legal traditions flowing from that text. In his dissent in United
States v. Virginia, in which the Court declared that Virginia Military Institute's
exclusively-male admission policy violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal
Protection Clause, he declared that the function of the Court is to "preserve
our society's values, not to revise them; to prevent backsliding from the degree
of restriction the Constitution imposed upon democratic government, not to prescribe,
on our own authority, progressively higher degrees." The Court is not to
"supersede" but rather is to "reflect" those "constant
and unbroken national traditions that embody the people's understanding of ambiguous
constitutional texts."  As he eloquently argued in his dissent in Rutan
v. Republican Party, in which the Court held that political patronage violates
the free speech rights of public employees:
The provisions of the Bill of Rights were designed to restrain transient majorities
from impairing long-recognized personal liberties. They did not create by implication
novel individual rights overturning accepted political norms. Thus, when a practice
not expressly prohibited by the text of the Bill of Rights bears the endorsement
of a long tradition of open, widespread, and unchallenged use that dates back
to the beginning of the Republic, we have no proper basis for striking it down.
Such a venerable and accepted tradition is not to be laid on the examining table
and scrutinized for its conformity to some abstract principle of First Amendment
adjudication devised by this Court . . . When it appears that the latest "rule,"
or "three-part test," or "balancing test" devised by the
Court has placed us on a collision course with such a landmark practice, it
is the former that must be recalculated by us, and not the latter that must
be abandoned by our citizens.
Scalia believes that "the rule of law is the law of rules" -- this
is the title of his Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Lecture delivered at Harvard
Law School in 1989. He argues that where the text embodies a rule, judges
are simply to apply that rule as the law. Where text and tradition fail to supply
a rule, there is no rule and, hence, no law for judges to apply to contradict
the actions of the popular branches and, therefore, no warrant for judicial
intervention. This was his argument in Romer v. Evans, in which he unleashed
a powerful attack on the Court for "tak[ing] sides in the culture war"
and invalidating Colorado's Amendment 2 denying preferential treatment to homosexuals.
"Since the Constitution of the United States says nothing about this subject,
it is left to be resolved by normal democratic means, including the democratic
adoption of provisions in state constitutions. This Court has no business imposing
upon all Americans the resolution favored by the elite class from which the
Members of this institution are selected, pronouncing that 'animosity' toward
homosexuality is evil." This was also his argument in his concurring
opinion in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, in which the Court
rejected the petitioner's contention that she had a "right to die;"
While I agree with the Court's analysis today, and therefore join in its opinion,
I would have preferred that we announce, clearly and promptly, that the federal
courts have no business in this field; that American law has always accorded
the State the power to prevent, by force if necessary, suicide -- including
suicide by refusing to take appropriate measures necessary to preserve one's
life; that the point at which life becomes "worthless," and the point
at which the means necessary to preserve it become "extraordinary"
or "inappropriate," are neither set forth in the Constitution nor
known to the nine Justices of this Court any better than they are known to nine
people picked at random from the Kansas City telephone directory; and hence,
that even when it is demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that a patient
no longer wishes certain measures to be taken to preserve her life, it is up
to the citizens of Missouri to decide, through their elected representatives,
whether that wish will be honored. It is quite impossible that those citizens
will decide upon a line less lawful than the one we would choose; and it is
unlikely (because we know no more about "life-and-death" than they
do) that they will decide upon a line less reasonable.
In A Matter of Interpretation, Justice Scalia succinctly spelled out both
the origins of judicial-policy making and his reasons for rejecting it. Judicial
policy-making arose, he noted, in the old common-law system in England where
judges, unconstrained by statutes or a written constitution, exercised the "exhilarating"
function of making law. From there, it eventually spread to modern American
law schools where impressionable "law students, having drunk at this intoxicating
well," come away thinking that the highest function of the judge is "devising,
out of the brilliance of one's own mind, those laws that ought to govern mankind.
How exciting!" (Scalia, p. 7) He noted a key problem with this approach:
It is a "trend in government that has developed in recent centuries, called
democracy" (Scalia, p. 9). As Scalia insisted, "It is simply not compatible
with democratic theory that laws mean whatever they ought to be mean, and that
unelected judges decide what that is" (Scalia, p. 22).
Scalia has castigated the Court for its contemptuous disregard of the democratic
principle in several powerful dissents. Thus, in his dissent in the companion
cases of Umbehr and O'Hare Truck Service, he accused his colleagues of "living
in another world. Day by day, case by case, it is busy designing a Constitution
for a country I do not recognize." He warned the public that "[w]hile
the present Court sits, a major, undemocratic restructuring of our national
institutions and mores is constantly in progress." Likewise, in his
dissent in United States v. Virginia, he acerbicly noted that much of the Court's
opinion concerning Virginia Military Institute and its all-male student body
was "devoted to deprecating the closed-mindedness of our forebears with
regard to women's education." He therefore felt obliged to "counterbalance"
the Court's criticism of our ancestors and to say a word in their praise: "they
left us free to change." The virtue of the democratic system with its First
Amendment "that we inherited from our forebears" is that "it
readily enables the people, over time, to be persuaded that what they took for
granted is not so, and to change their laws accordingly." That system,
he continued, "is destroyed if the smug assurances of each age are removed
from the democratic process and written into the Constitution." But, Scalia
charged, that is exactly what "this most illiberal Court" has been
doing: it has "embarked on a course of inscribing one after another of
the current preferences of the society (and in some cases only the counter-majoritarian
preferences of the society's law-trained elite) into our Basic Law."
As a textualist, Justice Scalia totally rejects reliance on legislative history
or legislative intent. He invariably criticizes his colleagues for turning
to committee reports, or even floor debates, to ascertain what a law means.
His extensive "inside the beltway" experience has made him savvy to
how often congressmen will withdraw actual amendments to bills under consideration
in the House because they are told by the floor leaders of the bill that they
will take care of the congressmen's concerns through the drafting of the legislative
history. In U.S. v. Taylor (1988), he perspicaciously drew out the consequences:
By perpetuating the view that legislative history can alter the meaning of
even a clear statutory provision, we produce a legal culture in which the following
statement could be made -- taken from a portion of the floor debate alluded
to in the Court's opinion:
Mr. DENNIS . . . . 'I have an amendment here in my hand which could be offered,
but if we can make up some legislative history which would do the same thing,
I am willing to do it.' 120 Cong. Rec. 41795 (1974).
We should not make the equivalency between making legislative history and
making an amendment so plausible. It should not be possible, or at least should
not be easy, to be sure of obtaining a particular result in this Court without
making that result apparent on the face of the bill which both Houses consider
and vote upon, which the President approves, and which, if it becomes a law,
the people must obey. I think we have an obligation to conduct our exegesis
in a fashion which fosters that democratic process.
Scalia argues that the Court is to interpret the text alone and nothing else.
The law should be understood to mean what it says, and say what it means. Otherwise,
as Scalia noted in his Court of Appeals dissent in Illinois Commerce Commission
v. Interstate Commerce Commission (1984), compromise, so essential to the legislative
process, "becomes impossible." "[W]hen there is no assurance
that the statutory words in which [the compromise] is contained will be honored,"
both sides to a compromise "have every reason to fear that any ambiguity
will be interpreted against their interests" in subsequent litigation.
Likewise, if the law does not mean what it says and does not say what it means,
citizens are left at a loss concerning how they should conduct themselves. As
he said in U.S. v. R.L.C. (1992): "It may well be true that in most cases
the proposition that the words of the United States Code or the Statutes At
Large give adequate notice to the citizen is something of a fiction, albeit
one required in any system of law; but necessary fiction descends to needless
farce when the public is charged even with knowledge of Committee Reports."
Scalia insists that the Court should focus its attention on the text alone.
As he argued in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier (1991): "We should
try to give the text its fair meaning, whatever various committees might have
had to say -- thereby affirming the proposition that we are a Government of
laws, not committee reports. . . . Today's decision reveals that, in their judicial
application, committee reports are a forensic rather than an interpretive device,
to be invoked when they support the decision and ignored when they do not. To
my mind that is infinitely better than honestly giving them dispositive effect.
But it would be better still to stop confusing [lower courts] and not to use
committee reports at all."
Scalia's attack on the use of legislative history is nowhere more sustained
and devastating than in his opinion in Conroy v. Aniskoff (1993), in which he
concurred in the judgment.
The Court begins its analysis with the observation: "The statutory command
. . . is unambiguous, unequivocal, and unlimited." In my view, discussion
of that point is where the remainder of the analysis should have ended. Instead,
however, the Court [Justice Stevens] feels compelled to demonstrate that its
holding is consonant with legislative history, including some dating back to
1917 -- a full quarter century before the provision at issue was enacted. That
is not merely a waste of research time and ink; it is a false and disruptive
lesson in the law. It says to the bar that even an "unambiguous (and) unequivocal"
statute can never be dispositive; that, presumably under penalty of malpractice
liability, the oracles of legislative history, far into the dimmy past, must
always be consulted. This undermines the clarity of law, and condemns litigants
(who, unlike us, must pay for it out of their own pockets) to subsidizing historical
research by lawyers. The greatest defect of legislative history is its illegitimacy.
We are governed by laws, not by the intentions of legislators. . . . But not
the least of the defects of legislative history is its indeterminacy. If one
were to search for an interpretative technique that, on the whole, was more
likely to confuse than to clarify, one could hardly find a more promising candidate
than legislative history.
Scalia's contempt for the use of legislative history leads him to some interesting
exchanges with his colleagues. In Chisom v. Roemer (1991), he was provoked to
declare that there is a mistaken "notion that Congress cannot be credited
with having achieved anything of major importance by simply saying it, in ordinary
language, in the text of a statute, 'without comment' in the legislative history.
As the Court colorfully puts it, if the dog of legislative history has not barked,
nothing of great significance can have transpired. . . . We have forcefully
and explicitly rejected the Conan Doyle approach [see Silver Blaze] to statutory
construction in the past. . . . We are here to apply the statute, not legislative
history, and certainly not the absence of legislative history. Statutes are
the law though sleeping dogs lie." And, in United States v. Thompson/Center
Arms Co. (1992), he ridiculed Justice David Souter for resorting "to that
last hope of lost interpretive causes, that St. Jude of the hagiography of statutory
construction, legislative history." Souter defended his anti-textualist
approach by quoting a passage from Justice Frankfurter -- a passage that perfectly
encapsulates the view that Scalia rejects: "A statute, like other living
organisms, derives significance and sustenance from its environment, from which
it cannot be severed without being mutilated. Especially is this true where
the statute, like the one before us, is part of a legislative process having
a history and a purpose. The meaning of such a statute cannot be gained by confining
inquiry within its four corners. Only the historic process of which such legislation
is an incomplete fragment -- that to which it gave rise as well as that which
gave rise to it -- can yield its true meaning."
Scalia's textualist critique of legislative history has produced dramatic
results. Judge Patricia Wald noted in the Iowa Law Review that in its 1981-82
term, the Supreme Court looked at legislative history in virtually every statutory
case, regardless of whether it thought that the statute had a clear meaning
on its face. In 1995, Gregory Maggs, writing in the Public Interest Law
Review, observed that by the early 1990s, legislative history was being cited
in only about 40% of statutory cases. He offered a reason:
With Justice Scalia breathing down the necks of anyone who peeks into the
Congressional Record or Senate reports, the other members of the Court may have
concluded that the benefit of citing legislative history does not outweigh its
costs. It is likely for this reason that the percentage of cases citing it has
decreased dramatically. No one likes an unnecessary fight, especially not one
with as formidable an opponent as Justice Scalia.
Scalia has influenced members of Congress no less than his colleagues on the
High Bench. When the House Judiciary Committee was drafting a 1991 anti-crime
bill, Congressional Quarterly reported that "some members suggested resolving
a dispute by putting compromise language into a committee report, which accompanies
a bill to the floor. But Barney Frank, D-Mass., warned off his colleagues with
just two words, 'Justice Scalia.'"
Scalia believes deeply in following his text-and-tradition approach. His duty,
as he described it in his dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, is to "read
the text and discern our society's traditional understanding of that text."
Discerning that meaning is, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee during his
confirmation hearings, "the starting point and the beginning of wisdom."
Thus, to offer a few examples from the Bill of Rights, his reading of the "text
and tradition" of the Establishment Clause led him to conclude in his dissent
in Lee v. Weisman that it "was adopted to prohibit such an establishment
of religion at the federal level [as in England was represented by the Church
of England] and to protect state establishments of religion from federal interference"
and that it therefore did not bar nonsectarian prayers at public school graduation
ceremonies. Likewise, it led him to complain in Board of Education of Kiryas
Joel v. Grumet (1994):
The Founding Fathers would be astonished to find that the Establishment Clause
-- which they designed "to ensure that no one powerful sect or combination
of sects would use political or governmental power to punish dissenters"
-- has been employed to prohibit characteristically and admirably American accommodation
of the religious practices (or more precisely, cultural peculiarities) of a
tiny minority sect. I, however, am not surprised. Once this Court has abandoned
text and history as guides, nothing prevents it from calling religious tolerance
the establishment of religion.
His text-and-tradition approach also led him to conclude for the Court in
Coy v. Iowa and in his dissent in Maryland v. Craig that the Sixth Amendment's
Confrontation Clause requires, literally, face-to-face confrontation of witnesses
against the accused and proscribes the use of screens shielding testifying victims
or witnesses from the defendant or the use of closed-circuit televised testimony,
even in cases involving sexual molestation of children.
Simply as a matter of English, [the confrontation clause] confers at least
"a right to meet face to face all those who appear and give evidence at
trial." Simply as a matter of Latin as well, since the word "confront"
ultimately derives from the prefix "con-" (from "contra"
meaning "against" or "opposed") and the noun "frons"
(forehead). Shakespeare was thus describing the root meaning of confrontation
when he had Richard the Second say: "Then call them to our presence --
face to face, and frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear the accuser and
the accused freely speak."
And, it led him to conclude in Harmelin v. Michigan that the Cruel and
Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment bans only certain "modes
of punishment" (drawing and quartering, breaking on the wheel, flaying
alive), not whatever offends "evolving standards of decency" and certainly
not disproportional punishments.
In A Matter of Interpretation, Justice Scalia acknowledged that his textualist
approach is regarded in "some sophisticated circles" of the legal
profession as "simpleminded -- 'wooden,' 'unimaginative', 'pedestrian'"
(Scalia, p. 23). He rejected this characterization and denied that he was "too
dull to perceive the broader social purposes that a statute is designed, or
could be designed to serve, or too hidebound to realize that new times require
new laws;" he merely insisted that judges "have no authority to pursue
those broader purposes or to write those new laws (Scalia, p. 23). For
his eleven years on the Supreme Court, Scalia has stuck to the "text and
tradition" of our written Constitution and has rejected the intellectual
fads and novel theories of interpretation that have the invariable effect of
transferring power from the popular branches to the judges. In so doing, Scalia
reminds his colleagues of the most important right of the people in a democracy
-- the right to govern themselves as they see fit and to be overruled in their
governance only when the clear text or traditional understanding of the Constitution
they have adopted demands it.
. Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law,
edited by Amy Gutmann (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997), p.
13. (Hereafter cited in the text as Scalia.)
. Thus, Scalia searches out the ordinary meaning of the words used when
the provision was adopted, frequently consulting dictionaries of the era. In
fact, Scalia consults dictionaries more often than any of his colleagues. See
Note, "Looking It Up: Dictionaries and Statutory Interpretation,"
107 Harvard Law Review 1437, 1439 (1994).
. See Antonin Scalia, "Originalism: The Lesser Evil," 57 University
of Cincinnati Law Review 849, 851 (1989).
. For Justice Scalia, separation of powers represents such a critical structural
principle. As he stated in "Originalism: The Lesser Evil," p. 851:
"Indeed, with an economy of expression that many would urge as a model
for modern judicial opinions, the principle of separation of powers is found
only in the structure of the [Constitution,] which successively describes where
the legislative, executive, and judicial powers shall reside. One should not
think, however, that the principle was less important to the federal framers.
Madison said of it, in Federalist No. 47, that 'no political truth is certainly
of greater intrinsic value, or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened
patrons of liberty.' And no less that five of the Federalist Papers were devoted
to the demonstration that the principle was adequately observed in the proposed
. In Michael H. v. Gerald D., 491 U.S. 110, 127, n. 5 (1989), Justice Scalia
refers to this as "the most specific level at which a relevant tradition
protecting, or denying protection to, the asserted right can be identified."
. Hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary on the Nomination of Judge
Antonin Scalia to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,
Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-Ninth Congress, Second
Session, J-99-119 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1987),
p. 108. Justice Scalia uses tradition to interpret only ambiguous constitutional
texts; as he said in his dissent in Rutan v. Republican Party, 110 S.Ct. 2729,
2748, n. 1 (1990), "[N]o tradition can supersede the Constitution."
. See, for example, Witte v. United States, 115 S.Ct. 2199 (1995); Plaut
v. Spendthrift Farms, 115 S.Ct. 1447 (1995); Waters v. Churchill, 114 S.Ct.
1878 (1994); Callins v. Collins, 114 S.Ct. 1127 (1994); Herrera v. Collins,
113 S.Ct. 853 (1993); Richmond v. Lewis, 113 S.Ct. 528 (1992); Planned Parenthood
of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 112 S.Ct. 2791 (1992); Morgan v. Illinois,
112 S.Ct. 2222 (1992); California v. Acevedo, 111 S.Ct. 1982 (1991); Cruzan
v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, 110 S.Ct. 2841 (1990); Rutan v.
Republican Party of Illinois, 110 S.Ct. 2729 (1990); Perpich v. U.S. Department
of Defense, 110 S.Ct. 2418 (1990); and McKoy v. North Carolina, 110 S.Ct. 1227
. 111 S.Ct. 2491, 2507 (1991).
. See Gregory E. Maggs, "Reconciling Textualism and the Chevron Doctrine:
In Defense of Justice Scalia," 28 Connecticut Law Review 393, (1996), and
Bradley C. Karkkainen, "Plain Meaning: Justice Scalia's Jurisprudence of
Strict Statutory Construction," 17 Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy
. Scalia, "Originalism," p. 863.
. Hearings on the Nomination of Judge Antonin Scalia, p. 89.
. 116 S.Ct. 2342 (1996).
. 116 S.Ct. 2353 (1996).
. 116 S.Ct. at 2361.
. 116 S.Ct. at 2363.
. "[U]nder either the procedural component or the so-called 'substantive'
component of the Due Process Clause[, i]t is precisely the historical practices
that define what is 'due.'" Schad v. Arizona, 111 S.Ct. at 2507. Emphasis
in the original.
. The meanings of those constitutional provisions that are ambiguous are
not fixed in time; tradition can evolve, and, for Scalia, the appropriate way
for such evolution to take place is through the people via their elected state
legislatures and Congress. As he said in Burnham v. Superior Court, 110 S.Ct.
2105, 2119 (1990): "The difference between [myself] and Justice Brennan
has nothing to do with whether 'further progress [is] to be made' in the 'evolution
of our legal system.' It has to do with whether changes are to be adopted as
progressive by the American people or decreed as progressive by the Justices
of this Court."
. 116 S.Ct at 2366.
. Timothy Raschke Shattuck, "Justice Scalia's Due Process Methodology:
Examining Specific Traditions," 65 Southern California Law Review 2743,
. 116 S.Ct. 2264 (1996).
. 116 S.Ct. at 2292.
. 110 S.Ct. 2729, 2748 (1990).
. Antonin Scalia, "The Rule of Law as the Law of Rules," 56 University
of Chicago Law Review 1175 (1989).
. 116 S.Ct. 1620 (1996).
. 116 S.Ct. at 1637.
. 116 S.Ct. at 1629.
. 110 S.Ct. 2841, 2859 (1990).
. 116 S.Ct. at 2373.
. See Antonin Scalia, "The Doctrine of Standing as an Essential Element
of the Separation of Powers," 17 Suffolk University Law Review 881, 896
((1983), wherein Scalia described federal judges as individuals who are "selected
from the aristocracy of the highly educated, instructed to be governed by a
body of knowledge that values abstract principle above concrete result, and
(just in case any connection with the man in the street might subsist) removed
from all accountability to the electorate. . . . Where the courts, in the supposed
interest of all the people, do enforce . . . policies that the political process
itself would not enforce, they are likely (despite the best of intentions) to
be enforcing the political prejudices of their own class."
. 116 S.Ct. at 2292.
. Scalia made it very clear during his Senate confirmation hearings that
he was not "enamored" with the use of legislative history and reliance
on committee reports. As he told Senator Charles Mathias, "Once it was
clear that the courts were going to use them [committee reports] all the time,
they certainly became a device not to inform the rest of the body as to what
the intent of the bill was, but rather they became avowedly a device to make
some legislative history and tell the courts how to hold this way or that. Once
that happens, they become less reliable as a real indicator of what the whole
body thought it was voting on." Hearings on the Nomination of Judge Antonin
Scalia, p. 106.
. 108 S.Ct. 2413 (1988).
. As one critic of Scalia's rejection of legislative history complains,
individual members of Congress "can no longer express their intentions
effectively in any way other than incorporating them in the legislation itself."
Note, "Justice Scalia's Use of Sources in Statutory and Constitutional
Interpretation: How Congress Always Loses," 1990 Duke Law Journal 160,
. This Court of Appeals opinion provides further evidence of Scalia's keen
appreciation for the workings of the legislative process.
. 112 S.Ct. 1340 (1992).
. In his concurring opinion in Thunder Basin Coal Co. v. Reich (1994),
Scalia declared that he found "unnecessary" the majority's discussion
of the legislative history of the statute under consideration. "It serves
to maintain the illusion that legislative history is an important factor in
this Court's deciding of cases, as opposed to an omnipresent makeweight for
decisions arrived at on other grounds."
. 113 S.Ct. 1567 (1993). Emphasis in the original.
. 501 U.S. 406 (1991). See Ralph A. Rossum, "Applying the Voting Rights
Act to Judicial Elections: The Supreme Court's Misconstruction of Section 2
and Misconception of the Judicial Role," in Anthony A. Peacock, Affirmative
Action and Representation: Shaw v. Reno and the Future of Voting Rights (Durham,
N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 1997).
. 112 S.Ct. 2111 (1992).
. Ib., at 2109, n. 8.
. Patricia M. Wald, "Some Observations on the Use of Legislative History
in the 1981 Supreme Court Term," 68 Iowa Law Review 195 (1983).
. Gregory E. Maggs, "The Secrete Decline of Legislative History: Has
Someone Heard a Voice Crying in the Wilderness?" in The Public Interest
Law Review 1994, edited by Roger Clegg and Leonard A. Leo (Washington, D.C.:
National Legal Center for the Public Interest, 1994) p. 72.
. "Congress Keeps Eye on Justices as Court Watches Hill's Words,"
Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 49 (1991), p. 2863.
. 112 S.Ct. 2791, 2884 (1992).
. Hearings on the Nomination of Judge Antonin Scalia, p. 108.
. 112 S.Ct. 2649, 2683 (1992).
. 114 S.Ct. 2481, 2506 (1994).
. 108 S.Ct. 1011 (1988).
. 110 S.Ct. 3157 (1990).
. 108 S.Ct. at 2800-01 (1988).
. 111 S.Ct. 2680 (1991).
. Scalia occasionally drifts from his "text-and-tradition" moorings.
The Texas flag-burning case (Texas v. Johnson, 109 S.Ct. 397 ), in which
he joined in Justice Brennan's majority opinion striking down Texas's ban on
burning the American flag, is a glaring case-in-point. During his Senate confirmation
hearings, Scalia defined speech as "any communicative activity." Hearings
on the Nomination of Judge Antonin Scalia,, p. 51. By that definition, flag
burning was communicative activity and thereby speech and therefore protected
by the First Amendment. What is problematic, however, is not that his conclusion
does not logically follow from his premise but the premise itself. There is
absolutely no textual or historical evidence to support the contention that
the society that adopted the First Amendment understood it to cover all communicative
activity. Another glaring case-in-point is Scalia's unquestioned acceptance
of the incorporation doctrine. This is possibly explained by his reluctance
to be perceived as a Don Quixote tilting at windmills. As he observed in Albright
v. Oliver, 114 S.Ct. 814 (1994): "[O]ur decisions have included within
the Fourteenth Amendment certain explicit substantive protections of the Bill
of Rights -- an extension I accept because it is both long established and narrowly
limited." Emphasis added.