Associate Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito gave an in-depth interview to American Spectator magazine. It is a wide ranging interview that encompasses both his personal life and judicial philosophy.
The Justice describes his judicial philosophy to the magazine. “’I start out with originalism,’ he says. ‘I do think the Constitution means something and that that meaning does not change. Some of its provisions are broadly worded. Take the Fourth Amendment. We have to decide whether something is a reasonable search or seizure. That’s really all the text of the Constitution tells us. We can look at what was understood to be reasonable at the time of the adoption of the Fourth Amendment. But when you have to apply that to things like a GPS that nobody could have dreamed of then, I think all you have is the principle and you have to use your judgment to apply it.'”
I think I would consider myself a practical originalist.
I find this view interesting, to say the least. There is so much how our country has changed since the adoption of the Constitution, I think I like this pragmatic approach. To me at least, our forefather’s and their intentions play a critical role in interpreting the Constitution, but it cannot be the end-all, be-all of the analysis. I think how society changes also needs to be taken into account. I have never heard of the term ‘practical originalist’ before, so I am happy he gave it some context.
The interview also focused on technology. There are several high profile cases this year including ABC v. Aero (transmitting public programming over the Internet to subscribers), and Riley v. California (cell phone search by police). One of the critiques of the courts is that they do not understand technology as well as other segments of society.
We need to own up to the fact that we are a lot older than a lot of the population. We don’t have the same level of experience with these things that a lot of people do.
It is refreshing to me when anyone is self-aware enough to admit his or her shortcomings — it is even more impressive when that person has the power that a Supreme Court Justice does.
It is a really interesting read. I gained insight, understanding, and consequently respect for Justice Alito. It is a good read.