In thinking about the kind of person who should take his seat on the Court, it is worth reflecting on Justice Scalia’s principles of jurisprudence. One of the chief principles he championed, as a scholar and as a judge, is that the law, whether statutes or the Constitution itself, must be applied according to its text. In other words, judges should not apply the law based on what is good policy or what they suppose Congress may have intended (but did not express) in passing legislation.
In addition, Justice Scalia believed that the words of the law should be understood as they were understood by the people when the law was enacted. . . . There are some who believe that the meanings of words change over time, untethered from any objective measure. Thus what is legal one day may be illegal the next without any textual changes to the law. Justice Scalia rejected this notion. He held fast to the idea that the meaning of laws is fixed by the meaning ascribed to their words at the time they were enacted.
These two principles, textualism and originalism, are rooted in a third characteristic of Justice Scalia’s jurisprudence: an unwavering respect for the idea of popular government. Laws, including the Constitution, receive their legitimacy from the people. The Constitution is not an autonomously evolving document that spins out new “rights” and obligations to which the people have not given their consent. . . .
Along with this opposition to creative interpretation of the Constitution, a fourth characteristic of Justice Scalia’s life work was a conviction that the rights actually guaranteed in the Constitution should be tenaciously defended, from the right of free speech to the rights of criminal defendants. Beyond these enumerated rights, Justice Scalia recognized that the Constitution’s primary protection of liberty is its structure of checks and balances between branches and its division of powers between the federal government and the states.General Pruitt discussed the important issues that the Supreme Court will decide in the coming years, concluding:
The next Supreme Court justice will not only decide the outcome in pending cases, he or she will also influence the type of cases that make it to the Court in the first place. Businesses are less likely to challenge exorbitant or unfair rulings against them knowing there is a majority of justices hostile to their interests. Conservatives will be less likely to put their time and resources into defending the Constitution if they know the Court won’t enforce it. Meanwhile, liberal groups will be emboldened to bring cases that attempt to roll back First Amendment and Second Amendment freedoms, among others. . . .
The appointment of the next Supreme Court justice could be the most legally significant event for our country in a generation. If the next justice is in the mold of Justices Ginsburg or Sotomayor, the rulings of the Court will shift dramatically to the left. If the next justice shares the principles and philosophy of Justice Scalia, the ideologically balanced Court that we have grown accustomed to in the last quarter century will likely remain. As someone whose job it is to defend the rights of the people of Oklahoma, this turning point is very important to me. But as I hope I have explained, the next Supreme Court justice will make decisions that touch on the rights of every American and that may come to define the nature of our government and our society for many years to come.As we are increasingly engaged in this year's Presidential election, it is important to remember one of the most important ramifications of who wins in November - the ability to nominate the replacement for Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court and likely several other justices as well. Thanks to the leadership of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others, the American people are given a voice in that decision.