A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law , by Antonin Scalia

This book is more of a Symposium, where Justice Scalia presents his essay that develops the essence of Textualism, aka Originalism, which is essential to constitutional democracy; then it is followed by responses from Professors Donald Dworkin, Mary Ann Glendon, Laurence Tribe and Gordon Wood. In the final part of this book, Justice Scalia offers a response to each Professor. Justice Scalia is known for rejecting the notion of a “living” or “evolving” Constitution and he explains this thoroughly in his book and explicitly differentiates “Originalism” from “Strict Constructivism”.

The Preface was written by Amy Gutmann; she elaborates on Justice Scalia’s position where judicial interpretation ought to be guided by text rather than by intentions or ideals external to it. The good thing about making other Professors comment on Justice Scalia’s methodology is to do away with any ambiguity in regard to his position or to the positions of his criticizers. Justice Scalia not only responds to his challengers, but even anticipates them in his essay. Amy states:

All the commentators concur with Justice Scalia’s critique of interpreting the law according to either subjective legislative intent or judge’s favorite moral philosophy. But they suggest other alternative .. Professor Wood joins Justice Scalia in worrying about the tension between judicial lawmaking and democracy. Judges, he agrees, should be interpreters, not makers of the law .. But Professor Wood also worries that Justice Scalia underestimates the degree to which judicial lawmaking is part of the very constitution of American democracy.

However if Professor Wood were right, then the ambiguity in legislative and judicial matters may have been the issue taking place rather than being an exception for postcolonial America. Professor Tribe on the other hand doubts:

.. that any defensible set of ultimate rules of interpretation exists.

Professor Glendon touches upon the habits of the Common Law, and Professor Dworkin defends a different version of originalism from Justice Scalia’s.

Scalia’s opinions on European behavior is also important to document, he said:

The Europeans don’t even try to divide the two political powers – the legislature and the chief executive

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