Hecht: Whether I agree with our representatives’ policy decisions or not, Justice Scalia insisted that my role as a judge is to be true to the words.
Saturday, Justice Antonin Scalia passed from this life. President Obama, no fan of Justice Scalia’s decisions, called him “one of the towering legal figures of our time?” Why?
For one thing, Justice Scalia believed, simply, that words matter. The words of the Constitution matter. The framers chose them, the Congress endorsed them, and the states ratified them. They were discussed and debated in communities and through the media across the country. Those words, we decided, are what the government should be. When it comes to government of the people, by the people and for the people, Americans’ holy grail is the Constitution, the sacred compact between “We, the People” and our government. The words matter.
Which means I can’t make up the law just because I’m a judge. My role is not to rule based on what I think the law ought to be, or even on what I think most people would like it to be, but on what the words of the Constitution say it is. The same is true for statutes passed by the Congress or the Legislature. Whether I agree with our representatives’ policy decisions or not, Justice Scalia insisted that my role as a judge is to be true to the words…