Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reflections: A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law

Adam C. Zern opines on A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law:

"I heard about A Matter of Interpretation by looking over The Federalist Society’sConservative and Libertarian Pre-law Reading list.”  (In fact, I found what became one of my favorite books—A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell—on this reading list).  After reading The Federalist Papers I realized I had a tremendously lacking understanding of our judiciary and the nuances of our system.  Reading A Matter of Interpretation was an effort to try and fill in some of the gaps of my judicial knowledge.

A Matter of Interpretation is a collection of essays—one written by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 4 written by legal/historical scholars in response to Scalia’s essay, and one essay from Scalia responding to the scholar’s comments.  The collection overall is interesting, but it is definitely Justice Scalia’s comments that make the compilation worth reading.  His comments and arguments were perfectly lucid, very readable, and very enjoyable.  His legal and logical defense of ‘textualism’ as a viable mode of interpretation is interesting to read and his arguments are compelling.

As expected, the biggest problem with the essays—especially some of the professors—is that they expect a certain level—a significant level—of knowledge regarding case law and judicial theory.  Some of the arguments and finer points are lost (at least on me).  The essays are worth reading if you have, like I do, a desire to learn more about judicial theory and practice.  Otherwise, it will probably be a difficult chore to complete.”

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