by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan said Monday the high court is by-and-large a textualist court, having adopted much of the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s judicial reasoning.
At the Chicago-Kent College of Law, Kagan said she viewed the high court as existing between two poles best represented by Scalia on one end and Justice Breyer on the other. “I think, for the most part, we are within those poles but much closer to the Scalia pole: That we are a generally, fairly textualist court, which will generally think when the statute is clear you go with the statute,” Kagan said. Kagan said she thought it serves the country and court well to reach consensus whenever possible, which has often happened by the justices’ adherence to textualism. Textualists, such as Scalia, look to the literal, objective meaning of a law or statute when determining the meaning of a legal text, as opposed to deciphering a law’s purpose or intent. “[P]retty much all of us now look at the text first and the text is what matters most,” Kagan said Monday. “And if you can find clarity in the text that’s pretty much the end of the ballgame.”