The Supreme Court’s role is to interpret the Constitution. And, generally, we accept that interpretation. But acceptance can be difficult, especially given the sharp divisions among the justices about standards of interpretation. A shift of just one or two justices can in fact change what the Constitution demands on any given issue.
There are two basic interpretations: Originalism and the living constitution. Originalism settles constitutional questions by reference to a common meaning of the text when ratified, or by a determination of the framer’s intent. As you can imagine, there is significant debate about framer’s intent.
The living constitution interprets the meaning of the text and words considering the current times. Different times produce different interpretations. Things change and evolve. As you can imagine, there is significant debate about evolving interpretations.
Conservatives and Liberals possess distinct views on interpretation. Liberals support the living constitution while Conservatives prefer originalism.
Should we consider judges as impartial umpires calling balls and strikes?
No, that would be naïve.
The standards that prevail – what is a ball and what is a strike – depend on the partisan composition of the Court, not on the words of the Constitution.
Accordingly, the recent partisan clash about a code of ethics for Supreme Court justices is much ado about nothing. It’s a sideshow that diverts attention from the powerful ideological biases that were firmly in place long before judges consorted with wealthy business people and Washington elites.
One thought on “Strike three or ball four?”
good stuff. Opinions are diverse and interesting. I am preferential to the originalist thinking. Not because its always correct. But, because it has a firm set of parameter to work within. Speculating on the framers intent through the lens of history has got to be simpler than being washed about by the volatile and ever-changing psychology of today’s society.