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Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 8:17 p.m.

Justice Antonin Scalia says constitution not meant to answer moral questions

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Nicole Dunsmore.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reminded the hundreds of people packed into Lisner Auditorium on Monday that the nation’s 227-year founding document does not hold all the answers to some of it’s biggest moral questions.

Scalia stressed that while the U.S. Constitution remains the core of its judicial process and the “source of our freedom,” it’s not suited to resolving moral dilemmas. He said that means the Supreme Court, which has the final word on constitutional cases, is not “of the greatest interest” to Americans.

Justice Antonin Scalia stressed the importance of preserving the Constitution’s original intent Monday during a speech at Lisner Auditorium. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Photographer

While “the world believes in human rights,” Scalia said that he is a lawyer, “not a philosopher king” and that he and his legal colleagues cannot answer these questions.

“Judges have no particular expertise in the question of what human rights ought to be,” Scalia said, adding that legal scholars do not even agree on what defines human rights.

Other questions, like those surrounding the privacy debate springing from the National Security Administration debacle, are more relevant to his court, he said on the anniversary of the U.S. Constitution signing.

As one of the Court’s most conservative members, he also honed in on the importance of state laws. While he believes the scope of the federal government has expanded, Scalia added that many of the most relevant laws to Americans are state laws.

The event was Scalia’s second visit to GW this year, after he spoke with NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg about his life and Supreme Court tenure.

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  • spencer neal

    How does he square his argument that the court does not decide “moral questions” with its duty to decide, for example, what is “cruel and unusual punishment,” a decision that is based upon the issue of morality?

    • David

      Is that what he said? According to the article above, he said the Constitution (not the court) doesn’t hold *all* of the answers to the world’s moral problems.

      The Supreme Court’s role is to interpret the Constitution, which directly and explicitly addresses cruel and unusual punishment in the 8th Amendment.

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