I Favor an Empathetic, Activist, Strict Constructionist

I didn’t have much time for TV news today, but it took less than half of the twenty seconds I devoted to Wolf Blitzer to hear a commentator bring up the boogeyman of the virtues of Supreme Court justices who are strict constructionists as against the loose cannons who are (empathetic) judicial activists.  I wonder if someone can explain to me what a strict constructionist is?  I know some conservatives claim that activist judges are those who legislate from the bench.  Help me understand how any Supreme Court decision is not a form of legislation insofar as the very act of interpreting various laws and lower court decisions in the context of the Constitution must always turn the law, at least in some small way, to a meaning it did not have before.

Now and then I hear someone bring up the issue of original intent, which is patently ridiculous on the face of it.   However brilliant our founding fathers were, their intent had to be limited, and was limited, by their own time and culture.  As I recall from my undergraduate courses, that matter was decided in Marbury vs. Madison way back in 1803.  So why is that old hoax still be floated around?

I’m really looking forward to seeing if the current GOP leadership can come up with something new and creative this time, but my guess is that they are in mortal fear that we may get a justice who is actually committed to upholding the highest values of our nation as expressed in our Constitution.  

4 thoughts on “I Favor an Empathetic, Activist, Strict Constructionist”

  1. Commenting my own post, NPR reported that the GOP senate leadership is pondering how best to oppose Sotomayor. Think about that for a minute. The voice of the loyal opposition is not to be a voice of opposition just for the sake of opposing. That\’s crazy.

  2. two of the largest groups bleeding out of the GOP, Women and Hispanics, Who is the GOP going to please?The GOP leadership will bring down the US for their own agenda, it is pretty obvious, I can only hope the people of this land will have more smarts than to fall for the advertising tactics that they fell for in the Reagan campaigns.

  3. The ironic thing is that on gun control issues, it is liberals who become \’strict constructionists\’, interpreting the second amendment in an \’original intent\’ mode applying only to state militias; and conservatives who interpret that amendment more broadly as supporting gun rights in general. The manner of interpretation often depends on the issue. Peace to you.Chris

  4. Chris,\’Tis true, and, as it turns out, I am one of those who favors strict gun control. It would please me to see the NRA and friends as concerned about the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights as they are about that one. Oddly enough, the original intent argument is not one we \”liberals\” use on gun control. Original intent would have envisioned nothing more than the household musket used for hunting meat for the table, and, in a pinch, being made available to help arm a local militia. We live in an environment that is far different than that. As for me, I would require all guns to be registered just as we register cars, and all gun owners to be licensed following an appropriate training regimen, just as we license drivers. Where I live most residents outside the city own firearms. Some for hunting, some for target shooting, and almost always for protection against cougars, coyotes, bears and snakes. What troubles me are the right wingers who envision an armed citizenry of potential vigilantes, each prepared and hoping for some self-defense action against an alleged \”perp\”, or who imagine that their stock of AK-47s will help them stave off the coming invasion of whoever the current Red Menace might be.

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