Federal Judge: Constitution Not Worth Studying Anymore
According to 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner, writing on Slate.com, it’s time for the Supreme Court – and, indeed, law students everywhere – to stop giving so much deference to that old, musty document known as the U.S. Constitution.
“I see absolutely no value to a judge of spending decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution, the history of its enactment, its amendments, and its implementation,” Posner wrote. “Eighteenth-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc. of the 21st century. Which means that the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the post-Civil War amendments (including the 14th), do not speak to today.”
Posner concluded: “In short, let’s not let the dead bury the living.”
Posner, an appointee of Ronald Reagan, is surely entering the initial stages of some form of regrettable dementia.
If anything, our current Supreme Court justices have strayed too far from their constitutional grounding. Increasingly, they put on those black robes and suddenly consider themselves the wisest men and women in the land, imbued with the kind of grand ideas and exceptional genius that renders the Constitution (and even legal precedent) matters of triviality. If these things can be used to support their learned opinion, great. If not, well, that’s fine too. No such banalities can be used to question a mighty Justice! Begone, peasant.
Posner is right, of course, that there are aspects of 21st century American life that are too far removed from the Revolution-era to make constitutional application an easy job. But then, that’s why we have the Supreme Court. If you could find every answer in the written text of that hallowed document, we would hardly need all of this “interpretation.”
But without a close study of the Constitution, its framers, and its intent, we are a ship lost at sea, simply making the rules up as we go along. At some point, Posner (and many other liberals) apparently forgot that the Constitution was – and is – one of the greatest legal foundations for government in the history of the world. Upon those brilliant insights, we built a country that permanently changed this thing we call life.
The grand importance of the Constitution, though, is not in its specificity or its one-to-one relevance in 2016. It’s the theme that is written between every calligraphic line: Whenever possible, the power of the federal government over the citizenry should be severely limited. This should be the guiding light of every Supreme Court Justice, every senator, every congressman, and every president.
“I think the Supreme Court is at a nadir,” wrote Posner at another point in his essay. “The justices are far too uniform in background, and I don’t think there are any real stars among them.”
Well, then, Judge Posner, this would be a pretty bad time for them to start ignoring the Constitution, wouldn’t it?