U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia doesn't have high opinions of moderate judges or even most justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Those conclusions came from comments the conservative justice made Monday at a luncheon to drum up support for the creation of a Montana chapter of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies.
Scalia reminisced about rulings on issues like abortion, gun control, states' rights and the Affordable Care Act.
“We decide for the whole society very difficult, heart-felt questions when I think we have no more capacity than Joe Sixpack,” Scalia said.
The audience that filled the GranTree banquet room contained the more conservative of the Montana Republican Party, including Rep. Steve Daines, former gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill and Attorney General Tim Fox.
Each paid $30 for the luncheon. It was also sponsored by several law offices, the Montana Family Foundation and the state of Montana.
Scalia didn't hide the fact that he doesn't approve of “moderate” judges who believe the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted to fit modern developments.
“It's not a living document, it's a dead document,” Scalia said. “Oh, don't put it that way. It's an enduring document. It's a meaningless document if its meaning changes according to whatever the Supreme Court thinks.”
Scalia said his opinion was that the Supreme Court is the last word on any particular case, but not any overall issue. He said the court could make the wrong call on Constitutional issues.
“It's a great exaggeration to say that pronouncements of the Supreme Court are ‘the law of the land,'” Scalia said.
An originalist, Scalia asserts that the nation should follow the Constitution as it was written in the late 1700s or as it was later amended. Any new change should require an amendment, he said.
For example, the original Constitution didn't recognize racial minorities until the Civil War prompted the 13th through 15th amendments.
“It's not up to the courts to invent new minorities that get special protections that are not subject to the usual rule that you have to get the majority to agree with it,” Scalia said.
While Scalia believes that the majority should drive any Constitutional amendment, he doesn't think much of the majority. He argued that an originalist court should focus on the Bill of Rights.
“The court doesn't know what the public wants; it's not supposed to. Its main function is to tell the American people that they can't do what they want to do,” Scalia said. “Why should I be in step with the majority of people?”
Scalia regards his own opinions highly, especially the dissenting ones.
“Most of my opinions haven't been dissents; only my best ones,” Scalia said.
The Federalist Society, started in 1982, has grown into one of the nation’s most influential legal organizations.
With a $10 million budget, the society has received a lot of money from groups that support conservative causes, including promoting school vouchers and investigating the personal life of former president Bill Clinton, according to the Washington Post. These include the John M. Olin and Charles G. Koch foundations.
Scalia was an adviser to the society while he was a University of Chicago law professor.