This Honorable Court: The United States Supreme Court
01:32:35 - 01:34:39
Paul Duke, When you re listening to arguments, how conscious are you of the precedents that that have been established by the Supreme Court over the years?
Justice Byron White, If you didn t have some respect for precedent the law would be a shambles. No one would have any basis for reliance. I m on the downside of a lot of cases, I m in dissent. Everyone is in dissent some time, but hardly ever do you keep insisting on that position. You accept the decision even though you are in dissent and you are quiet. The next term you may have to write an opinion based on that precedent that you didn t agree with but now you accept.
Justice Antonin Scalia, It s a little unrealistic to talk about the Court as though it s a continuing, unchanging institution rather than, to some extent necessarily, a reflection of the society in which it functions.
Paul Duke, If societal attitude is indeed important, are you saying then that the Court follows election returns?
Justice Antonin Scalia, No. Don t mistake me as having said that. I don t think societal attitude is important to my decision at all. And I doubt whether any of the other Justices would think that. Above all else, a judge is there to be a protection against, at least temporary societal attitudes. I don t consult the election returns or what the majority of the society or a minority of the society thinks about a particular issue. My only point is if the society changes, you are going to eventually be drawing judges from that same society. And however impartial they may try to be, they are going to bring with them those societal attitudes, in their heads, not because they re trying to reflect.