Scalia speaks at Princeton University

March 7, 2008 7:29:17 PM PST
Antonin Scalia, one of the Supreme Court's most outspoken and conservative justices, still managed some zingers Friday even as he delivered a carefully reasoned critique of judges who go beyond what the Constitution's writers intended.

When a written question from a student asked about the Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore decision on the 2000 presidential election, Scalia told the crowd of about 300 at Princeton University: "Oh, get over it! It's eight years ago."

"By 5-4 we decided enough is enough and we put an end to it and I think the vast majority of citizens in the country were grateful that we did that," Scalia said of the court's decision, which ended the Florida recount.

Scalia was at Princeton to receive a public service award from the university's American Whig-Cliosophic Society, which bills itself as the nation's oldest literary, political and debating society.

In his 40-minute talk, Scalia decried judicial activism, arguing that judges should resist the tendency to go beyond the intent of the Constitution's framers.

"There are simply some things that courts cannot do. And if that means there are some wrongs that courts cannot right, so be it," Scalia said.

The speech came about a month after Scalia caused a stir over an interview broadcast in Great Britain in which he defended aggressive interrogation techniques to prevent terrorist attacks.

"It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn't, I don't know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn't do that," Scalia told British Broadcasting Radio Corp.

Scalia, 71, a Trenton native, was appointed to the high court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan.


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