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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia denounced the "living constitutional approach" in his speech on constitutional interpretation yesterday afternoon. Scalia's lecture, sponsored by the Distinguished Jurist Series of the University's Institute for Law and Economics, centered around the benefits of the "textualist," or "originalist," interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to which he repeatedly said he subscribes. The originalist view of the Constitution relies on interpreting the document from the point of view of the framers, Scalia said, not interpreting it according to the changing views of the majority. "The Constitution was once fixed and stable, like a statue," Scalia said during his lecture. "It would have been unthinkable [in the past] to write what the Supreme Court has written in the past 30 years." Scalia described the the Court's legal position over the past 30 years as reflecting "the evolving standards of decency in a changing society," which he said is both wrong and harmful. "The living constitutional approach will ultimately, in my view, destroy the document," Scalia said. Scalia added that the Constitution is presently being interpreted as what it "ought to mean," not as what it simply is, a prescription he finds troubling. "What is now believed is that the Constitution is what the judges say it is," Scalia said. Along with the change in interpretation, Scalia noted that society has now given the Court, a group of "nine unrepresentative people," the last word on the Constitution. He said the power should lie in the legislature instead. Scalia offered the 19th amendment -- women's suffrage -- as an example of this change in power. "We wouldn't adopt the 19th Amendment today," Scalia said. "We would have the Court decide." While Scalia did admit his originalist view of the Constitution is not always perfect, he added that this view will allow the document to serve its intended purpose. After the speech, Scalia fielded what Institute Board of Advisors member Jim Agger described as "well-researched questions" from the audience. Second-year Law student Elliot Fertik questioned the validity of basing constitutional interpretation around what the framers intended. "Given the fact that the founding fathers often disagreed, how can the original text be a guide to what the Constitution means," he said. Scalia answered by saying that he does not "pretend that originalist theory is easy." "But, what is your candidate in place of it -- there is none," Scalia said. Reiterating that he finds it wrong for the public to constantly turn to the Court, Scalia joked that he feels like he's sitting on a mountaintop when he's asked such questions as, "Judge Scalia, is there a right to die?" Scalia said these questions should be debated and voted on, not left to the judgement of "nine lawyers" who have been chosen. University Law School Dean Colin Diver said Scalia's speech was "fabulous." "[Judge Scalia] is a very entertaining speaker and substantive as well," Diver said. He added that he, personally, "leaned" more towards an originalist interpretation, but disagrees with Scalia on specific cases. College senior William Shrubsall said he "wholeheartedly" agrees with Scalia. "I have been following [Scalia's] opinions since he joined the Court in 1986," Shrubsall said. "I like his interpretation of the Constitution." Past Distinguished Jurist lecturers include Judge Douglas Ginsberg, Judge William Allen, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Judge Richard Posner and Judge Frank Easterbrook.

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