On the role of the Judge: I think it is up to the judge to say what the Constitution provided, even if what it provided is not the best answer, even if you think it should be amended. If that's what it says, that's what it says.
If you're going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you're not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you're probably doing something wrong.
We Americans have a method for making the laws that are over us. We elect representatives to two Houses of Congress, each of which must enact the new law and present it for the approval of a President, whom we also elect. For over two decades now, unelected federal judges have been usurping this lawmaking power by converting what they regard as norms of international law into American law. Today's opinion approves that process in principle, though urging the lower courts to be more restrained. This Court seems incapable of admitting that some matters - any matters - are none of its business.
Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain et al., 542 U. S. 692 (2004) (concurring in part and concurring in judgment).
Justice White's conclusion is perhaps correct, if one assumes that the task of a court of law is to plumb the intent of the particular Congress that enacted a particular provision. That methodology is not mine nor, I think, the one that courts have traditionally followed. It is our task, as I see it, not to enter the minds of the Members of Congress - who need have nothing in mind in order for their votes to be both lawful and effective - but rather to give fair and reasonable meaning to the text of the United States Code, adopted by various Congresses at various times.
Pennsylvania v. Union Gas Co., 491 U.S. 1 (1989) (concurring in part and dissenting in part).
Judges who find Constitutional rights the Framers never intended take important issues out of the public space of democratic debate and suspend them in a sort of legal formaldehyde.
Robert F. Kennedy used to say, 'Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not?'; that outlook has become a far too common and destructive approach to interpreting the law
On legislating from the bench: Evidently, the governing standard is to be what might be called the unfettered wisdom of a majority of this Court, revealed to an obedient people on a case-by-case basis.
I think [that] '[t]he judicial Power of the United States' conferred upon this Court 'and such inferior courts as Congress may establish', must be deemed to be the judicial power as understood by our common-law tradition. That is the power 'to say what the law is', Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803), not the power to change it.
James M. Beam Distilling Co. v. Georgia, 501 U.S. 529 (1991) (concurring).
On stare decisis (adhering to judicial precedent): The Court's reliance upon stare decisis can best be described as contrived. It insists upon the necessity of adhering not to all of Roe, but only to what it calls the 'central holding.' It seems to me that stare decisis ought to be applied even to the doctrine of stare decisis, and I confess never to have heard of this new, keep-what-you-want-and-throw-away-the-rest version.
The Court's statement that it is 'tempting' to acknowledge the authoritativeness of tradition in order to 'curb the discretion of federal judges' is, of course, rhetoric rather than reality; no government official is 'tempted' to place restraints upon his own freedom of action, which is why Lord Acton did not say 'Power tends to purify.' The Court's temptation is in the quite opposite and more natural direction -- towards systematically eliminating checks upon its own power; and it succumbs. (
Today's extension of the Edwards prohibition is the latest stage of prophylaxis built upon prophylaxis, producing a veritable fairyland castle of imagined constitutional restriction upon law enforcement.
Minnick v. Mississippi, 498 US 146 (1990) (dissenting).
On the living Constitution: I am left to defend the 'dead' Constitution.
Textualism should not be confused with so-called strict constructionism, which is a degraded form of textualism that brings the whole philosophy into disrepute. I am not a strict constructionist, and no one ought to be--though better that, I suppose, than a nontextualist. A text should not be construed strictly, and it should not be construed leniently; it should be construed reasonably, to contain all that it fairly means.
Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation 23 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998).  (PDF).
Words do have a limited range of meaning, and no interpretation that goes beyond that range is permissible.
On judicial arrogance: It is one of the unhappy incidents of the federal system that a self-righteous Supreme Court, acting on its Members' personal view of what would make a 'more perfect Union' (a criterion only slightly more restrictive than a 'more perfect world') can impose its own favored social and economic dispositions nationwide.
What today's decision will stand for, whether the Justices can bring themselves to say it or not, is the power of the Supreme Court to write a prophylactic, extraconstitutional Constitution, binding on Congress and the States.
If one assumes, however, that the PGA TOUR has some legal obligation to play classic, Platonic golf—and if one assumes the correctness of all the other wrong turns the Court has made to get to this point—then we Justices must confront what is indeed an awesome responsibility. It has been rendered the solemn duty of the Supreme Court of the United States, laid upon it by Congress in pursuance of the Federal Government's power [t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, U. S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 3, to decide What Is Golf. I am sure that the Framers of the Constitution, aware of the 1457 edict of King James II of Scotland prohibiting golf because it interfered with the practice of archery, fully expected that sooner or later the paths of golf and government, the law and the links, would once again cross, and that the judges of this august Court would some day have to wrestle with that age-old jurisprudential question, for which their years of study in the law have so well prepared them: Is someone riding around a golf course from shot to shot really a golfer? The answer, we learn, is yes. The Court ultimately concludes, and it will henceforth be the Law of the Land, that walking is not a fundamental aspect of golf.
Now the Senate is looking for 'moderate' judges, 'mainstream' judges. What in the world is a moderate interpretation of a constitutional text? Halfway between what it says and what we'd like it to say?
Address to Chapman University students in 2005 ).
Legislative flexibility on the part of Congress will be the touchstone of federalism when the capacity to support combustion becomes the acid test of a fire extinguisher. Congressional flexibility is desirable, of course - but only within the bounds of federal power established by the Constitution. Beyond those bounds (the theory of our Constitution goes), it is a menace.
Frequently an issue of this sort will come before the Court clad, so to speak, in sheep's clothing: the potential of the asserted principle to effect important change in the equilibrium of power is not immediately evident, and must be discerned by a careful and perceptive analysis. But this wolf comes as a wolf.
Morrison v. Olsen, 487 U.S. 654, 699 (1988) (dissenting).
I define speech as any communicative activity. [Can it be nonverbal?] Yes. [Can it be nonverbal and also not written?] Yes. [Can it encompass physical actions?] Yes. Watt [Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Watt, 703 F.2d 586 (1983)] was a case in which what was at issue was sleeping as communicative activity. What I said was that for purposes of the heightened protections that are accorded, sleeping could not be speech. That is to say, I did not say that one could prohibit sleeping merely for the purpose of eliminating the communicative aspect of sleeping, if there is any . . . [and] I did not say that the Government could seek to prohibit that communication without running afoul of the heightened standards of the first amendment. If they passed a law that allows all other sleeping but only prohibits sleeping where it is intended to communicate, then it would be invalidated. But what I did say was, where you have a general law that just applies to an activity which in itself is normally not communicative, such as sleeping, spitting, whatever you like; clenching your fist, for example; such a law would not be subject to the heightened standards of the first amendment. That is to say, if there is ordinary justification for it, it is fine. It does not have to meet the high need, the no other available alternative requirements of the first amendment. Whereas, when you are dealing with communicative activity, naturally communicative activity—writing, speech, and so forth— any law, even if it is general, across the board, has to meet those higher standards.
Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings, 8/5/86, transcript at pp.51-2).
'Abusive' (or 'hostile,' which in this context I take to mean the same thing) does not seem to me a very clear standard - and I do not think clarity is at all increased by adding the adverb objectively or by appealing to a reasonable person's notion of what the vague word means.
Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17 (concurring).
On decency laws: Perhaps the dissenters believe that 'offense to others' ought to be the only reason for restricting nudity in public places generally. . . . The purpose of Indiana's nudity law would be violated, I think, if 60,000 fully consenting adults crowded into the Hoosierdome to display their genitals to one another, even if there were not an offended innocent in the crowd.
On tax-funded art: Avant-garde artistes such as respondents remain entirely free to épater les bourgeois [shock the middle classes]; they are merely deprived of the additional satisfaction of having the bourgeoisie taxed to pay for it. It is preposterous to equate the denial of taxpayer subsidy with measures 'aimed at the suppression of dangerous ideas.'
On affirmative action: Those who believe that racial preferences can help to 'even the score' display, and reinforce, a manner of thinking about race that was the source of the injustice and that will, if it endures within our society, be the source of more injustice still.
Individuals who have been wronged by unlawful racial discrimination should be made whole; but under our Constitution there can be no such thing as either a creditor or a debtor race. That concept is alien to the Constitution's focus upon the individual. ...To pursue the concept of racial entitlement - even for the most admirable and benign of purposes - is to reinforce and preserve for future mischief the way of thinking that produced race slavery, race privilege and race hatred. In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American.
Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Mineta, 534 U.S. 103 (1995) (concurring).
My difficulty with Roe v. Wade is a legal rather than a moral one. I do not believe – and no one believed for 200 years – that the Constitution contains a right to abortion. And if a state were to permit abortion on demand, I would and could in good conscience vote against an attempt to invalidate that law, for the same reason that I vote against invalidation of laws that contradict Roe v. Wade; namely, simply because the Constitution gives the federal government and, hence, me no power over the matter.
The Constitution contains no right to abortion. It is not to be found in the longstanding traditions of our society, nor can it be logically deduced from the text of the Constitution - not, that is, without volunteering a judicial answer to the nonjusticiable question of when human life begins. Leaving this matter to the political process is not only legally correct, it is pragmatically so. That alone - and not lawyerly dissection of federal judicial precedents - can produce compromises satisfying a sufficient mass of the electorate that this deeply felt issue will cease distorting the remainder of our democratic process. The Court should end its disruptive intrusion into this field as soon as possible.
Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 497 U.S. 502 (1990) (dissenting).
The notion that the Constitution of the United States, designed, among other things, 'to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, . . . and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,' prohibits the States from simply banning this visibly brutal means of eliminating our half-born posterity is quite simply absurd.
One will search in vain the document we are supposed to be construing for text that provides the basis for the argument over these distinctions, and will find in our society's tradition regarding abortion no hint that the distinctions are constitutionally relevant, much less any indication how a constitutional argument about them ought to be resolved. The random and unpredictable results of our consequently unchanneled individual views make it increasingly evident, Term after Term, that the tools for this job are not to be found in the lawyer's - and hence not in the judge's - workbox. I continue to dissent from [the Court's] enterprise of devising an Abortion Code, and from the illusion that we have authority to do so.
[I]t seems to me that the more Christian a country is the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral. Abolition has taken its firmest hold in post–Christian Europe, and has least support in the church–going United States. I attribute that to the fact that, for the believing Christian, death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an innocent person is a big deal: it is a grave sin, which causes one to lose his soul. But losing this life, in exchange for the next? The Christian attitude is reflected in the words Robert Bolt’s play has Thomas More saying to the headsman: 'Friend, be not afraid of your office. You send me to God' . . . For the nonbeliever, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his existence.
Today's decision is the pinnacle of our Eighth Amendment death-is-different jurisprudence. Not only does it, like all of that jurisprudence, find no support in the text or history of the Eighth Amendment; it does not even have support in current social attitudes regarding the conditions that render an otherwise just death penalty inappropriate. Seldom has an opinion of this Court rested so obviously upon nothing but the personal views of its members.
[I] believe that our people’s traditional belief in the right of trial by jury is in perilous decline. That decline is bound to be confirmed, and indeed accelerated, by the repeated spectacle of a man’s going to his death because a judge found that an aggravating factor existed. We cannot preserve our veneration for the protection of the jury in criminal cases if we render ourselves callous to the need for that protection by regularly imposing the death penalty without it.
On executing minors: What a mockery today's opinion makes of Hamilton's expectation, announcing the Court's conclusion - that the meaning of our Constitution has changed over the past 15 years—not, mind you, not that this Court's decision 15 years ago was wrong, but that the Constitution has changed. The Court reaches this implausible result by purporting to advert, not to the original meaning of the Eighth Amendment, but to the evolving standards of decency, of our national society. It then finds, on the flimsiest of grounds, that a national consensus which could not be perceived in our people's laws barely 15 years ago now solidly exists.
The Court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our Nation's moral standards—and in the course of discharging that awesome responsibility purports to take guidance from the views of foreign courts and legislatures. Because I do not believe that the meaning of our Eighth Amendment, any more than the meaning of other provisions of our Constitution, should be determined by the subjective views of five Members of this Court and like-minded foreigners, I dissent. Words have no meaning if the views of less than 50 percent of death penalty States can constitute a national consensus. Our previous cases have required overwhelming opposition to a challenged practice, generally over a long period of time.
On the point of the Court's Roper decision: I watched one television commentary on the case in which the host had one person defending the opinion on the ground that people should not be subjected to capital punishment for crimes they commit when they are younger than eighteen, and the other person attacked the opinion on the ground that a jury should be able to decide that a person, despite the fact he was under eighteen, given the crime, given the person involved, should be subjected to capital punishment. And it struck me how irrelevant it was, how much the point had been missed. The question wasn’t whether the call was right or wrong. The important question was who [i.e., the Courts or Congress] should make the call.
Justice Blackmun begins his statement [declaring Blackmun's opposition to capital punishment] by describing with poignancy the death of a convicted murderer by lethal injection. He chooses, as the case in which to make that statement, one of the less brutal of the murders that regularly come before us, the murder of a man ripped by a bullet suddenly and unexpectedly, with no opportunity to prepare himself and his affairs, and left to bleed to death on the floor of a tavern. The death-by-injection which Justice Blackmun describes looks pretty desirable next to that. It looks even better next to some of the other cases currently before us, which Justice Blackmun did not select as the vehicle for his announcement that the death penalty is always unconstitutional, for example, the case of the 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. See McCollum v. North Carolina. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!
Callins v. Collins 510 U.S. 1141 (1994) (Scalia, J., concurring in denial of cert).
I find it a sufficient embarrassment that our Establishment Clause jurisprudence regarding holiday displays has come to require scrutiny more commonly associated with interior decorators than with the judiciary.
As to the Court's invocation of the Lemon test: Like some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried, Lemon stalks our Establishment Clause jurisprudence once again, frightening the little children and school attorneys of Center Moriches Union Free School District. Its most recent burial, only last Term, was, to be sure, not fully six feet under: Our decision in Lee v. Weisman conspicuously avoided using the supposed test but also declined the invitation to repudiate it. Over the years, however, no fewer than five of the currently sitting Justices have, in their own opinions, personally driven pencils through the creature's heart (the author of today's opinion repeatedly), and a sixth has joined an opinion doing so. The secret of the Lemon test's survival, I think, is that it is so easy to kill. It is there to scare us (and our audience) when we wish it to do so, but we can command it to return to the tomb at will. Such a docile and useful monster is worth keeping around, at least in a somnolent state; one never knows when one might need him.
The Court today finds that the Powers That Be, up in Albany, have conspired to effect an establishment of the Satmar Hasidim. I do not know who would be more surprised at this discovery: the Founders of our Nation or Grand Rebbe Joel Teitelbaum, founder of the Satmar. The Grand Rebbe would be astounded to learn that after escaping brutal persecution and coming to America with the modest hope of religious toleration for their ascetic form of Judaism, the Satmar had become so powerful, so closely allied with Mammon, as to have become an establishment of the Empire State. And the Founding Fathers would be astonished to find that the Establishment Clause — which they designed to insure that no one powerful sect or combination of sects could 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 toleration the establishment of religion.
Saratoga Fishing Co. v. J. M. Martinac & Co., 520 U.S. 875 (1997) (dissenting).
This case, involving legal requirements for the content and labeling of meat products such as frankfurters, affords a rare opportunity to explore simultaneously both parts of Bismarck's aphorism that 'No man should see how laws or sausages are made.'
Community Nutrition Institute v. Block, 749 F.2d 50, 51 (D.C. Cir. 1984).
'The operation was a success, but the patient died.' What such a procedure is to medicine, the Court's opinion in this case is to law.
National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, 524 U.S. 569 (Scalia, concurring).
If to state this case is not to decide it, the law has departed further from the meaning of language than is appropriate for a government that is supposed to rule (and to be restrained) through the written word.
United States v. Rodriguez-Moreno, 526 U.S. 275 (Scalia, dissenting).
The story is told of the elderly judge who, looking back over a long career, observes with satisfaction that, when I was young, I probably let stand some convictions that should have been overturned, and when I was old I probably set aside some that should have stood; so overall, justice was done. I sometimes think that is an appropriate analogy to this Court's constitutional jurisprudence, which alternately creates rights that the Constitution does not contain and denies rights that it does. Compare Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) (right to abortion does exist) with Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990) (right to be confronted with witnesses, U.S. Const., Amdt. 6, does not).
I am persuaded, therefore, that the Maryland procedure is virtually constitutional. Since it is not, however, actually constitutional, I would affirm the judgment of the Maryland Court of Appeals reversing the judgment of conviction.
On Antitrust law: [I]n law school, I never understood [antitrust law]. I later found out, in reading the writings of those who now do understand it, that I should not have understood it because it did not make any sense then.
Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings, 8/5/86, transcript at p.36).
[H]ave the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity
I have been willing, in the case of civil statutes, to acknowledge a doctrine of scrivener's error that permits a court to give an unusual (though not unheard of ) meaning to a word which, if given its normal meaning, would produce an absurd and arguably unconstitutional result.
On the Pledge of Allegiance: In Barnette, we held that a public school student could not be compelled to recite the Pledge; we did not even hint that she could not be compelled to observe respectful silence. . . . Logically, that ought to be the next target for the Court's bulldozer.
On the court's lack of authority regarding the right to die: [T]he 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...[therefore] 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.
Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (1990) (concurring).
On legal paternalism: It is hard to consider women a 'discrete and insular minority', unable to employ the 'political processes ordinarily to be relied upon' when they constitute a majority of the electorate. And the suggestion that they are incapable of exerting that political power smacks of the same paternalism that the Court so roundly condemns.
On gender equality: The tradition of having government-funded military schools for men is as well rooted in the traditions of this country as the tradition of sending only men into military combat. The people may decide to change the one tradition, like the other, through democratic processes; but the assertion that either tradition has been unconstitutional through the centuries is not law, but politics-smuggled-into-law.
On the independent counsel law: How frightening it must be to have your own independent counsel and staff appointed, with nothing else to do but to investigate you until investigation is no longer worthwhile.
On parental rights: In my view, a right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children is among the 'unalienable Rights' with which the Declaration of Independence proclaims 'all Men . . . are endowed by their Creator.'
On the right to sodomy: [Laws] prohibiting sodomy do not seem to have been enforced against consenting adults acting in private... I do not know what 'acting in private' means; surely consensual sodomy, like heterosexual intercourse, is rarely performed on stage.
On the right to sodomy:
[The Texas anti-sodomy statute] undoubtedly imposes constraints on liberty. So do laws prohibiting prostitution, recreational use of heroin, and, for that matter, working more than 60 hours per week in a bakery. But there is no right to 'liberty' under the Due Process Clause, though today's opinion repeatedly makes that claim. . . . The Fourteenth Amendment expressly allows States to deprive their citizens of 'liberty,' so long as 'due process of law' is provided. . . .
On civil rights and the war on terror: Many think it not only inevitable but entirely proper that liberty give way to security in times of national crisis--that, at the extremes of military exigency, inter arma silent leges. Whatever the general merits of the view that war silences law or modulates its voice, that view has no place in the interpretation and application of a Constitution designed precisely to confront war and, in a manner that accords with democratic principles, to accommodate it.
The definition of high crimes and misdemeanours: Among the questions considered nonjusticiable is the definition of an impeachable offense. Whatever Congress says is an impeachable offense is an impeachable offense.
On Global Warming, in response to Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General James Milkey's correction of Scalia's reference to the stratosphere: Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist. That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth.
Massachusetts vs. EPA, 05-1120. , November 30, 2006. Retrieved December 2, 2006..
On college graduates considering law as a career: I think too many promising young minds are wasted on it.
Address to the Claremont McKenna College Res Publica Society Luncheon, January 31, 2007...
On originalism vs. stare decisis: I'm not going to rip all that up. It's water over the dam. The people have gotten used to it. You know, that's what Stare Decisis is all about. In other words, I am an originalist. I am a texturalist. I am not a nut.
Manhattan Institute Lecture, November 17, 1997...
Antonin Scalia: It's erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. It's the — the cross is the — is the most common symbol of — of — of the resting place of the dead, and it doesn't seem to me — what would you have them erect? A cross — some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Moslem half moon and star? Peter Eliasberg: Well, Justice Scalia, if I may go to your first point. The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew. [Laughter.] So it is the most common symbol to honor Christians. Antonin Scalia:I don't think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that's an outrageous conclusion.
The problem here, however, is suggested by the comment I made earlier, that the initial enactment of this legislation in a — in a time when the need for it was so much more abundantly clear was — in the Senate, there — it was double-digits against it. And that was only a 5-year term. Then, it is reenacted 5 years later, again for a 5-year term. Double-digits against it in the Senate. Then it was reenacted for 7 years. Single digits against it. Then enacted for 25 years, 8 Senate votes against it. And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don't think that's attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement.