Friday, June 27, 2008

Why we need more judges like Justice Scalia

By Brent Woodcox
Communications Director/Assistant Legal Counsel, North Carolina Republican Party

By a slim 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court upheld the right of private citizens to "keep and bear arms" this week. Though we thought that this right was guaranteed in 1791 when the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was first adopted, the reality is that we are always one rogue decision of the Supreme Court from having even basic liberties stripped from us. For today, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief as those who would further erode the freedoms guaranteed us by the Founding Fathers have been defeated once again. This is why the issue of the role of judges and judicial appointments is so important. Please read Justice Scalia's brilliant opinion on behalf of the Court in Heller for yourself, but I particularly enjoyed this section and wanted to share it with you.

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___, (2008)

We know of no other enumerated constitutional right whose core protection has been subjected to a freestanding "interest-balancing" approach. The very enumeration of the right takes our of the hands of government--even the Third Branch of Government--the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon. A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges' assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all. Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad. We would not apply an "interest-balancing" approach to . . . the First Amendment . . . The Second Amendment is no different. Like the First, it is the very product of an interest-balancing by the people--which JUSTICE BREYER would now conduct for them anew. And whatever else it leaves to future evaluation, it surely elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home. ...

We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is the solution. The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns. . . But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct. ...

To read the full opinion, click here...