Thursday, September 25, 2008

U.S. Supreme Court justice dismisses notion of ‘living Constitution'

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia warned about the perils of a “living Constitution” Wednesday in a speech at the University of Montana, distinguishing his judicial role as a constitutional interpreter, not a framer.

In his afternoon speech, as well as during an earlier question-and-answer session with UM School of Law students, the jurist trained his focus on a favorite subject - constitutional interpretation, and its controversy within the Supreme Court.

“Every time a new right is invented under the living Constitution, democracy is minimalized, federalism is minimalized,” he said, calling the Constitution “the rock to which the polity is anchored.”

Scalia rejected the notion of a “living Constitution” and demurred at judicial decisions being tailored to meet an “evolving standard of decency.”

The Constitution, he said, must remain static, while responsible judicial interpretation of the legal ballast should consider “what the people thought at the time.”

“The disagreement, believe it or not, has nothing to do with politics, whether you're Republicans or Democrats; it really doesn't even have much to do with whether you're conservative or liberal,” Scalia said. “The fault line in constitutional interpretation is between those who think that the Constitution is static - it does not change, it means today what it meant when the people adopted it - and those who think that the Constitution changes from generation to generation, and it is the job of the Supreme Court to announce the changes, to say when old rights have gone out of existence and new ones have come into existence.”

Scalia told an audience of about 600 people, including members of Montana's state and federal judiciary, that the Constitution should not change with the whims of each successive court. Instead, justices should apply a strict interpretation of the Constitution, he said, providing the only sure criterion to prevent judges “from doing whatever suits them.”

“A Constitution is not a living organism, for Pete's sake, it's a legal document,” he said, criticizing the Supreme Court for amending the document every term. “It's become a mini-constitutional convention every time you appoint a new nominee to the Supreme Court.”

About 150 students gathered Wednesday morning in the basement of the law library, where they peppered Scalia with questions, ranging from his strict interpretation of the right to bear arms to his bewilderment of Indian law - “Indian law is the most difficult, confusing area of law. We have largely made it up” - and his disapproval of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that overturned all state and federal laws outlawing or restricting abortion.

Scalia, a staunch proponent of textualism, was careful to distinguish the original meaning of the Constitution from the framers' original intent, and struck down the notion that he was a strict constructionist, a philosophy that limits or restricts judicial interpretation. Scalia said his philosophy as a textualist and an originalist actually facilitates democratic change, and does not restrain flexibility.

While some Supreme Court justices maintain that the death penalty violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, Scalia said the country's founders wrote no such thing, and the issue should be dealt with by individual states, not by a federal body.

“You don't need a constitution to change, all you need is a legislature and a ballot box,” he said. “As new rights never identified by the people have been created by the Supreme Court, the scope of democracy has narrowed.

“It's something we should be very reluctant to tamper with,” he told the students. “We've been living under the strength of this document a century longer than Italy has been a nation. So don't mess with it.”


Foreign national ID card unveiled

Unfortunately, not in the US, but in the UK
I think that we should take notes....

id card explainer
Anti-forgery measures include colour changes when tilted,
embedded ultra-violet design and other features visible only
from certain angles

The first identity cards from the government's controversial national scheme have been unveiled.
The biometric card will be issued from November, initially to non-EU students and marriage visa holders.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the cards would allow people to "easily and securely prove their identity".
Critics say the roll-out to some immigrants is a "softening up" exercise for the introduction of identity cards for everyone.
The card will also include information on holders' immigration status.
"We want to be able to prevent those here illegally from benefiting from the privileges of Britain," she said.
Employers and colleges want to be confident people are who they say they are, she said, and immigration and police officers want to verify identity and detect abuse.
"We all want to see our borders more secure, and human trafficking, organised immigration crime, illegal working and benefit fraud tackled. ID cards for foreign nationals, in locking people to one identity, will deliver in all these areas," she added.
The UK Border Agency will begin issuing the biometric cards to the two categories of foreign nationals who officials say are most at risk of abusing immigration rules - students and those on a marriage or civil partnership visa.

Past presidential debates in history

Thank you BBC....

The televised presidential debates have played a key role in many of the US election campaigns since the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon contest. Here are some of the dramatic moments which changed the course of election history, compliments of the BBC.

'Human jet' delays English Channel flight

Swiss pilot Yves Rossy has been forced to postpone his attempt to cross the English Channel strapped to a homemade jet-propelled wing.
Yves Rossy is shown in flight last May over the Swiss Alps.
Poor weather conditions Thursday means he will try again Friday.
Rossy will leap from a plane more than 2,500 meters (2,700 yards) off the ground, fire up his jets and try to make the 35-kilometer (22-mile) from Calais in France to Dover in England in about 12 minutes, according to a statement put out by his organizers.
In his first public demonstration of the device in May, Rossy turned figure-eights high above the Alps, performing fluid loops from one side of the Rhone valley to the other.
Thursday's trip is meant to trace the route of French aviator Louis Bleriot, the first person to cross the Channel in an airplane 99 years ago. Rossy has told The AP he one day hopes to fly through the Grand Canyon.
The carbon composite-wing weighs about 55 kilograms (121 pounds) when loaded with fuel, and carries four kerosene-burning jet turbines to keep him aloft. The wing has no steering devices -- Rossy moves his body to control its movements. Video Watch more on 'Human Jet' »

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