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Scalia tells university crowd
to `get over' 2000 election

Knight Ridder Newspapers
Nov. 16, 2004

(KRT) - Antonin Scalia, the controversial United States Supreme Court justice, addressed a packed crowd at the University of Michigan on Tuesday, taking the unusual step of taking questions from the audience and drawing some boos - and some applause - during his answers to those questions.

Scalia, who was at Rackham Auditorium to speak on the philosophy of constitutional interpretation, was asked by a member of the audience whether, if he had the chance, he would revisit his decision in the Gore-Bush 2000 election. Scalia cut off the questioner , saying, "I'm inclined to say it's been four years and an election. Get over it." That drew loud boos from the crowd. Scalia voted with the 5-4 majority in 2000 to cease the recount of disputed votes in Florida.

Scalia continued, "The issue is not whether the decision should have been decided in the Florida or U.S. supreme courts, but that the Constitution had been violated. ... The only decision was to put an end to it after three weeks and looking like fools to the rest of the world. It was too much of a mess."

In his address, Scalia talked about originalism, explaining the concept of strict interpretation of the Constitution.

"In the last 40 years ... we've become fond of the phrase that we have a living document. But if something is wrong, then change the law or change the Constitution, but don't re interpret the Constitution." He said proponents of the living document concept and flexibility regarding the Constitution are "dead wrong. "

He also said the Constitution doesn't say anything about such issues as abortion rights and assisted suicide, and that those who are for or against such measures should work toward passing laws that support their views.

Scalia, 68, was first invited to come to the University of Michigan Law School by former dean Jeff Lehman several years ago and was scheduled to lecture on campus in late fall of 2002. But the visit was canceled after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the two University of Michigan admissions cases, according to law school officials.

Last year, the high court upheld the use of race in the law school admissions system in a 5-4 decision. Scalia dissented in that case. The court in a 6-3 decision struck down the use of a system in the undergraduate case that awarded minorities extra points. Scalia joined the majority in that case.

Scalia is known for his outspoken and often sarcastic opinions.

In his dissent in the law school case, Scalia said the school's quest for a "critical mass " of minority students to benefit all students amounted to racial discrimination.

"If properly considered an educational benefit at all, it is surely not one that is either uniquely relevant to law school or uniquely teachable in a formal setting. And therefore if it is appropriate for the University of Michigan Law School to use racial discrimination for the purpose of putting together a critical mass that will convey generic lessons in socialization and good citizenship, surely it is no less appropriate ... for the civil service system of the State of Michigan to do so ...

"The nonminority individuals who are deprived of a legal education, a civil service job or any job at all by reason of their skin color will surely understand. "

Scalia was scheduled to spend two days on campus teaching law school classes and delivering his public lecture Tuesday on constitutional interpretation. The law school classes were open only to law students. He also was scheduled to attend several private dinners.

A former law professor at the University of Virginia, Georgetown University and the University of Chicago, Scalia is at home in a classroom.

In a rare departure from his usual wary relationship with the news media, Scalia agreed to be photographed at the beginning of his lecture and take audience questions..

Scalia will receive a $10,000 honorarium from the Helen L. DeRoy Fellowship, a privately funded program established at the law school in 1980 to enhance legal education.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist was a DeRoy Fellow in 1989 ; former Justice Potter Stewart also came to campus as a fellow in 1982.