Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Judicial Evolution

I enjoyed reading today's Breakfast Table discussion in Slate. Dellinger's concluding comment, which I've quoted in full below, reminds me of a sign purportedly hanging in Justice Thomas's office. I'm told that it's a well-settled theory that, no matter how conservative members of the Supreme Court may be when appointed, they "evolve" (i.e., shift to the left) over time as they handle more and more cases. Justice Thomas, however, will defy this trend as long as he can: the sign in his office reads "I ain't evolving."

Here's what Dellinger has to say:

The Rules of the Constitution, as Justice Scalia reads them, should produce yes or no answers and not lead to the creation of "workable solutions" by pragmatic, but unelected, justices. I understand the appeal and the purity of the legalist position. But the older I get the more I feel the pull of pragmatism. I think this is because I lack some of the certainty I had as a young professor that I know the correct constitutional answers. There is a law of the Constitution and it fixes boundaries. But I don't think that staring at the text of the 14th Amendment will ever make me certain that the Constitution either forbids all affirmative action or that it places no limit at all on such uses of race. Or that one can resolve the assertions of presidential power to protect national security and the competing claims of the individual rights by finding that one so clearly provides that exclusive Constitutional Rule that there is no warrant for the kind of compromise forged in these cases by Justice O'Connor and her pragmatic colleagues.

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