by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
With the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, America has lost a champion of liberty.
Liberty exists by design and, as Andrew Jackson put it, by eternal vigilance. America’s Founders were clear that liberty requires limits on government, including a particular role for unelected judges. Judges that say what the law is promote liberty; judges that say what they think the law should be undermine it. Justice Scalia was precisely the sort of judge that liberty requires. …
… Justice Scalia stuck doggedly to this ideal of the good judge whose role in our system of government is limited to properly interpreting the law and applying it impartially to decide cases. Scalia’s brilliance and wit were certainly impressive, but they were powerfully connected to this deeply considered and deliberately framed judicial philosophy rooted in the principles of the Constitution.
Justice Scalia’s approach requires judges to exercise self-restraint. Judges, he often said, must take the law as they find it and apply it even when they do not like the results. In his own words: “If you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach.”
Liberty requires such judicial self-restraint, whether it is en vogue or not. As President Reagan put it when he administered the oath to Justice Scalia in September 1986, America’s Founders intended the judiciary to be independent and strong, but also confined within the boundaries of a written Constitution and laws.