101 of 108 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your father's judicial interpretation.
I'd like to mention, first of all, what this book it not. It is not for the casual observer of the American judicial system. Justice Scalia gives a probing examination of various methods used in Constitutional and judicial interpretation. If the reader is not consumed with learning law, or delineating the intent of the Constitution, this book will probably be a major...
Published on August 17, 2004 by Monty Rainey
3.0 out of 5 stars Tough to Rate
This is a difficult book to rate. Not because of the content but because of the man. Scalia purports to be a strict constructionist but based on his interpretation! I find that weird. So the book itself is find, I just find it difficult to accept the premise that Scalia is a strict constructionist based on his arguments.
Published 1 month ago by Steven E. Goss
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101 of 108 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your father's judicial interpretation.,
This review is from: A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law (University Center for Human Values) (Paperback)I'd like to mention, first of all, what this book it not. It is not for the casual observer of the American judicial system. Justice Scalia gives a probing examination of various methods used in Constitutional and judicial interpretation. If the reader is not consumed with learning law, or delineating the intent of the Constitution, this book will probably be a major disappointment.
On the other hand, if you have a solid foundation of knowledge on the judiciary and the U.S. Constitution, you will enjoy this book and will learn a great deal of what Justice Scalia has to offer. Scalia offers up a 50 page paper on the various methods of judicial interpretation, each methods strengths and weaknesses, and the how and why of whether or not each method is viable.
Scalia's paper is then cross-examined by Ronald Dworkin, Mary Ann Glendon, Amy Gutmann, Lawrence Tribe and Gordon Wood. Scalia then offers up his rebuttal and I believe, strengthens his theories of judicial interpretation. I am not going to go into my own how's and why's, as I am a fan of Scalia's and would rather allow the reader to reach their own conclusions.
Whether you like this book, or hate it, one thing is for certain, you will come away with a much better knowledge of the U.S. judicial system, how it reaches some of its conclusions, and what the consequences of continuing with current methods of judicial interpretation will be on our country.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, but with reservations.,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Matter of Interpretation (Hardcover)I assume you have seen a description of the book already. The book is good enough to be recommended overall, but there were some disappointments. First, the justice does not stay long on his professed topic, the interpretation of statutes, but goes over into constitutional interpretation. Those who make replies follow gladly, and there is really little on the whole about statutory instead of constitutional interpretation. Moreover, the justice did not make it clear enough to me how his textualist philosophy differs from literalism, which he explicitly disavows. Also dissappointing is that I think the justice could have made a much stronger case for what I do glean to be his philosophy by invoking legal principles already understood when the constitution was written, and especially by invoking Justice Story's brilliant decision in Martin v Hunter's Lessee. In that decision rules of constitutional interpretation are stated clearly and authoritatively, and are much along the lines of what Scalia advocates. Lastly, Justice Scalia's essay does not measure up to the keenness of insight and language he shows in his best dissents, though there are some good moments.
Despite these drawbacks, it is a very thought- provoking work and its brevity gives one less of an excuse for not reading it. It is largely free of technical vocabulary and there are no arcane discussions.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A model for all apologetics!,
This review is from: A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law (University Center for Human Values) (Paperback)I loved the format of the book! Scalia presents his judicial interpretative process, and honestly admits hypocrisy when he occasionally votes ideology rather than using his system. Then, rather than providing a half-hearted attack on his ideological opponents, he invites them to respond to his thesis, each with their own chapter!
You may not agree with Scalia, but you can't doubt his moral courage based on his invitation for criticism in his own book.
I also appreciated the chapter on the structure of Germany's Constitution to help us understand why principle, rather than statue, plays such a big role in American judicial interpretative processes.
Everyone that cares about the Supreme Court should read this book. I have yet to find a better book to learn the motivations and processes utilized by each ideological camp. After reading this book, my ability to understand the logic of the court, for both rulings and the opinions, has been greatly enhanced.
While unintended, Scalia also helped cement my personal belief that a blend of original meaning (aka textualism) and abstract principalism, and not Scalia's textualist approach alone, is by far the optimal method for judicial interpretation based on our Constitution.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine critique of modern legal philsophy in the US.,
This review is from: A Matter of Interpretation (Hardcover)Antonin Scalia is blessed with a powerful intellect and a persuasive manner of expression. It's about time that a member of the US Supreme Court explained in terms intelligible to the average "newspaper reader" just what is going on in federal appeals courts. If not all of Justice Scalia's recommendations are correct, he certainly, at long last, has been able to ask the right questions. Proponents of judicial activism (and Scalia graciously shares space with two of the most famous, Tribe & Dworkin) will be hard-pressed to keep up the pretense that federal courts today are much more than arenas for elite social engineers to rework society in their own image and likeness. A fine study in modern legal philosophy, I recommend this work with few reservations. My complete review of Justice Scalia's book can be found in "National Catholic Register" 26 Oct. - 1 Nov. 1997, p. 6. I have seen the review posted on the Web as well.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Legal tour de force,
This review is from: A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law (University Center for Human Values) (Paperback)This book is a real treat for anyone who loves legal (constitutional that is) thought. It would also make a great introduction into what several of the greatest thinkers in the Anglo-American legal profession think. The book is mainly a lecture by Scalia where he lays out his theory of 'textualism,' that is closely grounding constitutional interpretation to the original meaning of the words of the constitutional (or statutory) text. It is a spirited explanation of the theory and includes defenses against some of the more common attacks on the theory. But the book gets better. Four legal experts, Laruence Tribe, Ronald Dworkin, a historian and Glendon all give their comments on textualism. Scalia then replies to these comments at the end. A wonderful look into debate between five incredible minds who often diasgree.
20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tough read,
Although his section of the book is rather short, it is a bit difficult to follow for those of us who are not lawyers. Nevertheless, it is an excellent view into his thinking process. It details the reasons for not siding with contemporary liberal thinking, believing that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted literally (in most cases).
I read the book a few pages at a time, absorbed what I read, and read more the next day. Frequently, during the responses to his writings by other prominent lawyers, I found myself going back and re-reading parts of his writings again. To complete the book and understand it I probably read the entire book several times - back and forth between the writers.
Whatever your political leanings, it is an insight into why one Supreme Court Justice votes the way he does.
I wish all the Justices would write a similar book so we could understand their viewpoints.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scalia vs. Breyer,
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Insightful Discussion,
Scalia then gets to the heart of his argument - that the role of the judge is not to ascertain the intent of legislators, but rather to ascertain the meaning of the words contained in a particular document. In this sense, he a textual purist compared to activists who will search out the meaning of particular pieces of legislation by evaluating legislative history, popular press, Congressional record, etc. He concedes that language must be interpreted, but he argues that there is a disciplined approach, and a liberal approach. The disciplined approach he supports would evaluate text within the notion of reasonable interpretation, "placed alongside the remainder of the corpus juris."
"Government by unexpressed intent is simply tyranny," Scalia argues. "That seems to me the essence of the famous American ideal set forth in the Massachusetts Constitution. A government of laws, not of men. Men may intend what they will; but it is only the laws that they enact which bind us."
Scalia argues that the fact that some texts bear multiple interpretations does not sink the enterprise of textualism. The divide on constitutional questions is not between what the framers intended and what they wrote, but rather between original meaning and current meaning. Scalia argues it is precisely the threat of abolishing cherished rights that makes original meaning important - it is a protection against those, (say Nazis) who would seek to impose a new order or new interpretation of acceptable governance. He argues that the notion of a "living constitution" has narrowed the straits of American freedom, not expanded them. The prevailing mood may or may not be just in the eyes of history, but leave that to the legislators and the great debates among thinkers and politicians; don't seek to encode today's moods in tomorrow's constitution through judicial activism. The avenues for changing the constitution and expanding its purview are well known -- otherwise, leave legislating to the legislatures.
Tribe and Dworkin offer the most interesting rebuttals. Dworkin seeks to root constitutional interpretation in broad principles of understanding and rights; Tribe concedes he has no theory of jurisprudence, other than he finds it difficult to accept the certitude of either Dworkin or Scalia that they have the right interpretation. His is a strange argument. Scalia never says the Constitution does not bear multiple interpretations, but he does argue for a more disciplined approach, in which rights are not found willy nilly in the minds of judges and then imposed on the original document by which we are governed. One annoying aspect the book: Tribe responds both to Scalia's original essay and his counter rebuttal within the first rebuttal -- before we have even read Scalia's response. This got a tad confusing and did not add much to the overall discussion.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep Reading Books by Sitting Supreme Court Justices,
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I find this book to be a more interesting and powerful presentation than the recent book by Justice Breyer. In Breyer's book we read just his perspective and much of it is a response to this book by Scalia. In Scalia's book we are given Scalia's approach to judging and then we are given critical responses to that approach by several different authors, not all judges themselves. It is clear that Scalia likes the clash of argument and finds great benefit in that clash.
This book is brief and extremely well written so that even someone untrained in law can still easily follow the arguments and counterarguments. Anyone interested in our Supreme Court would find this book (and Breyer's) to be extremely useful and enlightening.
For myself, I found that reading both books left me believing that while both Justices approach the world in different ways, we are in good hands. Given the incredibly politicization of the Supreme Court, I found these books to be reassuring of the intelligence, character, and skill of these two Justices.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scalia's Book Review,
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A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law (University Center for Human Values) by Amy Gutmann (Paperback - July 27, 1998)