Paul Clement (lawyer)
United States Solicitor General
- Justice Antonin Scalia fundamentally changed the way the Supreme Court interpreted both statutes and the Constitution. In both contexts, his focus on text and its original public meaning often translated into more limited criminal prohibitions and broader constitutional protections for defendants. As to statutes, Justice Scalia refocused the court’s attention on the text of the laws Congress enacted. Although he may not have succeeded in getting the court to forswear even looking at legislative history, he did persuade his colleagues to start — and very often end — the analysis with the text. In the criminal context, he limited terms like extortion and property to their common law core and found the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act as unconstitutionally vague as “the phrase ‘fire-engine red, light pink, maroon, navy blue, or colors that otherwise involve shades of red.” When it came to interpreting the Constitution, he likewise put the text first and emphasized that the terms must be understood in light of their original public meaning. He believed that the words should be understood the way the framers used them. This did not mean that constitutional protections were frozen in time.
- In Scalia, criminal defendants have lost a great defender: Paul Clement (February 19, 2016)