"I am a believer in the method called originalism," said Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in a speech on October, 2004, "which, in a nutshell, says that you look at the text of the Constitution... and you give the text the meaning it had when it was adopted."
The whimsy of his placing this view in an appropriate "nutshell" aside, it appears now that Justice Scalia's method is less "originalism" than it is self-interest. Sorry, "self-interestism."
Last week, Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision, Hudson v. Michigan. The ruling allows that evidence found in an illegal police search is admissible in court. (Cries of "Holy Mother of God!!!!" may now begin.) Police no longer need to wait after announcing themselves before rushing into someone's home. The one saving grace is that a warrant must still be obtained - it just doesn't have to be used legally.
As comedienne Anna Russell said in a famous routine, "I'm not making this up, you know!"
In his decision, Scalia notes that the accused may still sue the police for the illegal search. Oh, okay, sure, that illegally-seized evidence probably put the person away, but the good news is, he may enjoy the court judgment upon release from prison in 15-20 years.
However one reacts to this ruling, the issue here is that while Justice Scalia likes to puff himself an "originalist," the reality is that this decision not only reverses the Bill of Rights, prohibiting unreasonable searches, but also English common law and the doctrine of "knock and announce," which for eight centuries has mandated that police must identify themselves and wait a reasonable time before entering someone's home.
Apparently, to Justice Scalia, "originalism" really means coming up with something original.
While Justice Scalia can declaim out of one face that "the Constitution should be interpreted exactly as it was adopted," he has clearly shown that the "method" he actually supports is Disingenuousism, since his other face is thrilled to reverse any original intent he doesn't approve.
It's worth noting that this vote occurred because, though the case had previously been argued in January, it was re-argued after Sandra Day O'Connor left the Court. Replaced by Samuel Alito, the resulting vote was altered.
Note to Ralph Nader: when running for President in 2000 because you said there was no difference between the two parties, this is one of those pesky differences you overlooked. As you struggle to rehabilitate yourself, don't forget that such action requires a 12-stop program.
No doubt, this Supreme Court decision will be viewed by so-called "law-and-order conservatives" with jubilation. Keep in mind, of course, that the concept of "law-and-order conservatives" is largely a facade, given their unrelenting attacks against judges and the court system - which even the most jaded observer would admit are sort of the heart of the "law" part of the equation.
As then-Justice O'Connor noted on February 7, conservative Senators and Congressmen "fuel the irrational fringe," which has led to death threats against judges, "creating a culture" that threatens the credibility of the courts.
(Not just threats. The husband of a federal judge was murdered in Illinois last year in a court-related case. Shortly after, a judge, court reporter and deputy were killed in Georgia.)
Like "law-and-order conservative" Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) who bemoaned judicial authority in April, 2005, and then winked at the connection, "I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country."
Or when former Tom DeLay summed up his attack against judges this March with, "All wisdom doesn't reside in ... people in black robes."
(In fairness to the indicted former Mr. DeLay, he might not be big on that whole "law-and-order" thing anymore.)
At Philander Smith College in January, dear "law-and-order conservative" Ann Coulter waxed poetically, "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee" She added that it was a "joke," although archaeologists are still digging to find the gag.
And of course "law-and-order conservatives" President Bush and the Republican Congress circumvented the entire judicial system for the Terri Schiavo fiasco. Despite eight court rulings, they decided the courts didn't know how to deliver justice, and instead imposed their own rule.
What kind of message does that - does all this and more - send about respect for the courts and "law-and-order"?
Hint: according to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, three-fourths of the over 2,000 Federal judges have requested home security systems.
Clearly, Justice Scalia and law-and-order conservative "originalists" live by the fantasy that if you're not guilty, you have nothing to hide. Of course, by their actions it doesn't actually matter whether you are or not. When the police have the right break the law in order to gather evidence, what difference does the law make...?
Republicans say they're the law-and-order party. It's just the law that they don't like.
"Knock, knock." "Who's th...Yeeeoowwww!!"