(…for adherence to the original meanings of the language and intent of our Constitution)

The recent death of Justice Scalia of the Supreme Court leaves not just a gap in that august body, but is also a loss for a strong voice at the Supreme Court for adherence to the original meanings and intent of the Constitution.

His consistent advocacy of that view often had him at odds not just with his peers on the Court, but with almost every administration during his tenure of office, along with most of those bringing their contentions and issues before it. For that reason many labeled him an extreme if not rigid “conservative”.

We don’t think so.

While we didn’t always agree with his application of that view in making decisions, his was not so much a “conservative” voice staunchly resisting the so-called “liberal” perspectives of his peers as that of a voice for common sense applications of what the Founders had meant and intended in the language they used to lay out the framework of our Constitution.

We need to understand that when the Founders designed the system of governance for our newborn republic, they wrote it up in relatively simple and straightforward English of those times so that everyone could understand it. That is, compared to today, the level of literacy and comprehension of language in those times was quite high. Even so, the Founders were obviously not taking any chances so much of what it says in the Constitution…is exactly what it means. Any ambiguities in what is meant in any parts of that document have more to do with the Founders’ desire to provide sufficient flexibility in the face of unknowable future conditions and situations, rather than anything else.

In any case, the Supreme Court was established as the third part of our national government, mainly to act as arbiter and interpreter over any contentions between the other two parts of it, between the respective states and the central authority, and between individual citizens and those governing authorities, or between each other. For most of its history the Supreme Court has lived up well to that “refereeing” role intended for it by the Founders.

It’s only in more recent times that political considerations and partisan perspectives have intruded into what should otherwise be a “neutral” branch of our government. Presidents and the Senate have maneuvered to “pack” it by appointing and confirming individuals whom they thought would be most likely to support their agendas, rather than just interpret how best to conform to the provisions of our Constitution.

We can only hope that to fill the gap left by Justice Scalia’s demise, anyone chosen by the President for appointment and confirmed by the Senate to replace him, will be selected not because of any “conservative” or “liberal” labels ascribed to them, but for their reputation for sound judicial performance in accordance with the framework of our Constitution.

Given the current political atmosphere surrounding us in the ongoing Presidential election process, and the generally intransigent postures of both this Administration and the controlling majority of the Senate, that’s probably much too much to hope for; and so, we may find ourselves stuck with a lame duck Court until this electoral cycle is done, a new President, and perhaps a different Senate, are in place to fill his seat on that Court.

It is not a very happy or optimistic prospect.