“We, the people of the United States…” begins the greatest vision of human freedom in history.
One of Britain’s great Prime Ministers, William Gladstone, called it “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.” When our Founding Fathers drafted the U.S. Constitution they created a document with fantastic strength, resilience and balance.
Unfortunately, we have witnessed judges who believe that the plans of our Founding Fathers were fine for the eighteenth century, but the Constitution as written doesn’t work today. Truth be told, with that mindset there is no limit to the damage a court could do to our country. In response, we should always strive to elect conservative judges who will decide cases based on the law as enacted by the people through their elected representatives, instead of based on their own personal views.
Over the course of history, the courts ― both federal and state ― have, on occasion, failed to do the job of applying the written text of the Constitution in their decisions. They have violated the constitutional role of the judiciary by usurping the legislative power to laws. As a result, activist judges under the guise of interpretation substitute what they want the Constitution to mean rather than seeking to understand what the Constitution’s Framers originally intended, a judicial philosophy known as originalism.
One of the originalist trailblazers in recent times, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, once said “the Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead, or as I prefer to call it, enduring. It means today not what current society, much less the court, thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted.” When judges view the Constitution as a “living Constitution” they run afoul of our Founding Father’s intention for the limited role of the judiciary. Activist judges usurp the role of the legislature and make laws based on their own policies or beliefs, which is contrary to the role of judiciary.
For this reason, it is imperative that we elect conservative judges with a judicial philosophy grounded in originalism. Not only does this provide an appropriate safeguard to uphold our constitutional laws, but ensures our identity as a country is rooted in our heritage so we never forget the sacrifices made for our freedom.
Our Founding Fathers risked everything they had to create this great nation we call the United States of America. John Adams once said, “you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make a good use of it.” Conservative judges who uphold the original intent of the Constitution not only honor our heritage, but apply the law as drafted by our Founding Fathers.
Unfortunately, throughout the history of the judiciary, we have seen courts usurp legislative power. The Constitution itself says we will have a Supreme Court, and this Court is separate from both the legislature and the executive. Likewise, the North Carolina Constitution establishes three branches of government, one of which is an independent judiciary. For those of us who have been educated in basic civics, it is understood that the role of the legislature is to make laws; the role of the executive is to carry out and enforce the laws and the role of the judiciary is to interpret and apply the laws to individual cases. In other words, our form of government has “checks and balances”, a crucial part of our “separation of powers.”
When the judiciary violates the separation of powers, it violates its limited role as required by the Constitution and infringes on our liberty. As Thomas Jefferson eloquently said, “A sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government.” It is imperative that we elect conservative judges who have respect for our separation of powers and fulfill their role by interpreting the Constitution and applying the letter of the law rather than making law.
In recent weeks, our nation has witnessed an amazing resurgence of originalism in our judiciary. Our Supreme Court has considered several important constitutional cases and, in the words of John Malcom at the Heritage Foundation, “the three words that best describe the Supreme Court’s decisions this term are text, history and tradition.” Let’s ensure we elect conservative judges in our great state who will also apply these principles and preserve our constitutional heritage for years to come.
John Morris is the county attorney in Rockingham County.