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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia received an enthusiastic response on Feb. 14 in Dallas when he spoke to an overflow crowd about his judicial philosophy. But there was a different reaction outside Owen Fine Arts Center at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University, where about 25 demonstrators protested the high court’s Florida vote decision. The group, with a few of its members dressed in judicial robes, carried signs reading, “Injustice Scalia,” “Democracy, Not Hypocrisy,” and “Wanted for Murder, ‘Tony Da Fix’ Scalia, Death of Democracy 12/12/00.” They also brought in two coffins saying “Women’s Choice, RIP” and “Right to Vote, RIP,” among other slogans. The protesters shouted various chants, such as “Hail to the thief” and “Gore got more,” as a Ryder truck, symbolizing the vehicles that carried the ballots in Florida, circled in front of the center bearing stickers saying “Chad Mobile,” “Banana Bush Republic” and “Democracy Isn’t 5-4.” Anna Casey, a gardener from Nevada, Texas, and one of the protesters, insisted that Bush did not win the Florida vote. “Our democracy has been stolen from us,” she said. Casey said the protesters represented three groups, Trust the People-Dallas, Home of the Brave and SMU Democrats. In his talk, sponsored by the SMU School of Law, Scalia said he’s one of the few originalists left. He says he believes that the Constitution should be read like text in a statute and that it means now what it meant at the time it was written. “That meaning does not change year to year,” Scalia said. Scalia, who was at SMU to give the Alfred P. Murrah lecture and to dedicate a new classroom there, objected to interpreting the Constitution as a document that evolves with the times. It’s not an organism, he said, but a document. This non-originalist philosophy has been especially prevalent in Eighth Amendment cases, Scalia said, with rulings that say that the definition of what constitutes “cruel and unusual” punishment changes with evolving standards of decency. “This Pollyanna-ish frame of mind was not the attitude of the men who drafted the Bill of Rights,” the justice, considered one of the most conservative members of the court, said. He said liberals and conservatives are guilty of trying to change the meaning of the Constitution with the times. If judges continue to expand its meaning to give people more and more rights, the Bill of Rights eventually will be destroyed, he said. Sometimes the results of originalism can be distasteful, but he still sticks with it, Scalia said. He gave one example as a ruling by the high court that put a stop to bans on flag-burning. In response to a question, Scalia said the decision by the Supreme Court to stop the presidential vote counting in Florida was based on the equal protection clause and on a constitutional clause that says the time, place and manner of choosing electors is decided by legislatures. “That’s all I have to say,” he added. Scalia, who entered the building through another entrance, told Texas Lawyer after his talk that he was unaware there were protesters outside. When asked to comment on their claims about the election ruling, he replied, “I don’t speak to the press.” Murrah, for whom the lecture series is named, presided over the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals from 1940 until his death in 1975 and was director of the Federal Judicial Center from 1970 to 1974. The lecture series was established through the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation; Sumners was a congressman from Dallas from 1913 to 1947 and a chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary.

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