What is the role of our Supreme Court Justices? | TheUnion.com

What is the role of our Supreme Court Justices?

The decision of the United States Supreme Court on June 26 (District of Columbia et al. v. Heller) regarding the Second Amendment underscores the importance of selecting justices who fully understand their role as constitutional officers.

There has been much discussion in recent years concerning the virtues of the originalist or textualist philosophy versus the activist philosophy as expressed by our Supreme Court justices. Some argue the Constitution is a “rock” upon which the foundation of our country rests, and that it must be strictly interpreted.

Others argue it is a “living” document, subject to evolve as American society changes over time, and the justices should have full authority to influence social policy.

For the latter, I offer an invitation to review two specific historical cases in which the Supreme Court abandoned its originalist role in favor of an activist role. These two cases, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Dred Scott (1857) deprived an entire class of citizens of certain freedoms that other citizens regularly enjoyed. With these two cases in mind, I wonder if those who disapprove of the originalist philosophy truly want to endorse activism in defining how our Supreme Court functions.

George Hicks

Grass Valley

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