Bryan Fischer Award Nominee: Justice Scalia

Bryan Fischer Award Nominee: Justice Scalia February 1, 2013

The Bryan Fischer Award is given to those who display a staggering lack of self-awareness and who accuse their opponents of their own worst attributes. Justice Scalia has long displayed this attribute, often accusing the liberals on the court of doing the very things he does routinely. Here’s his most recent example:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says a key part of interpreting the law properly is reaching decisions even when they contradict one’s beliefs.

“The judge who always likes the results he reaches is a bad judge,” he told an audience Monday evening at Southern Methodist University.

But how else can you explain Scalia’s ruling in the health care reform case last year, if not by him straining to reach the result he wanted? He flatly contradicted his own previous rulings. In 2005, in Raich v Gonzales, he agreed that the interstate commerce clause gave Congress the authority to regulate conduct that was neither interstate nor commerce (growing medical marijuana for one’s own use, which is legal in California where the plaintiff lives) because it might somehow have some indirect effect on interstate commerce.

In the health care reform case, he said that the interstate commerce clause did not give Congress the power to regulate participation in the insurance market, which is clearly both interstate and commerce. And he even announced that he had changed his mind on what the commerce clause allowed before the ruling came down, conveniently so he could reach the result he wanted.

And let me point out another inconsistency. Scalia is forever preaching the virtues of judicial restraint, that judges should rule only on the particulars of the case in front of them and not overstep their authority. Anything else would be “legislating from the bench.” And yet in Citizens United, he and the other conservatives on the court went far beyond what the petitioners to the court asked them to do. The petitioners in the case, Citizens United, only asked the court to rule that the McCain-Feingold law didn’t apply to non-profit corporations or didn’t apply to documentaries. The five conservatives on the court, four of which claim to be advocates of judicial restraint, decided that they wanted to overturn most of the law and reverse a century of precedent instead. In fact, they ordered that the case be reargued — an incredibly rare thing — so they could justify going way beyond what the attorneys argued.

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  • eric

    Scalia is forever preaching the virtues of judicial restraint, that judges should rule only on the particulars of the case in front of them and not overstep their authority.

    Which, as a concept, never made a lot of sense to me as applied to the supreme court. For lower courts, absolutely a great idea. But IMO the main point of having a supreme court is to help define and bound very broadly applicable laws.They function best when deciding individual cases as a means to clarifying some big point of law. Sure, they have a role as a final appeals court. But, IMO deciding that (made-up example) Joe Bob really did break the speed limit is a far less important part of their job than deciding on the limits of the government’s authority to set speed limits.

  • You know damn well that “judicial restraint” only applies to the nominally liberal court justices! And also he decided rightly on both Obamacare and Raich; both cases dealt with dirty hippies.

  • glodson

    It is much like those “damned activist judges” who are only activists if you disagree with them.

  • kantalope

    I think there is some confusion over “conservative restraint” and “liberal restraint” – what scalia means by liberal restraint is that they should shut the hell up. By conservative restraint he means don’t appear to be totally crazy. This has to do about why conservatives would be unhappy with some of their decisions…as in “I’m unhappy I didn’t just say that dirty hippies never have standing in any court.”

  • Glenn E Ross

    When ideologues study documents or ideas they tend to seek out that which supports their ideology no matter how weirdly they must twist the original document or idea to reach their ideological conclusion. When a rational person studies a document or idea they seek out the actual meaning and intent of the author(s). Of course even rationalists are susceptible to their inherent human bias, but the intent is to find the actual meaning. Ideologues are generally trying to find a way to interpret the info to support their preexisting beliefs.

    Justice Scalia is a perfect example of an ideologue run a muck. As Ed has described on many occasions, Justice Scalia has no overriding philosophy of interpreting the Constitution other than bending it to his ideology.

    I think the biggest impediment to having a fairer and smoother functioning society is the inability of strict ideologues to honestly analyse ideas and documents or to honestly interpret results.

  • Kaufman Fields

    Typical, the ruling of our country speak as though they are above the law. Which in this case the law makers are above the law. They have to promote the belief that they are not abusing the power that they have by claiming to have some moral compass that guides their steady hand to the correct decision for the good of our country. This is of course if it directly benefits them in some way! – Kaufman Fields – DMEsupplygroup

  • stever

    The deepest bug in the Constitution is that there is no check, short of impeachment, on the Supreme Court.