Constitution 101

As a prelude to the (no doubt awful) slew of decisions coming down from the Supreme Court today, Prof. Walter Dellinger offers a five minute crash-course on the constitution which ends with this simple — yet strangely elusive in government — explanation of the problems with “strict construction”:

Senators especially like it when a nominee says a judge’s role is just to be an “umpire.” But broad constitutional phrases are different from sports rules, so a judge would be like an umpire only if the game — instead of having a strike zone and a set number of balls, strikes, and outs — provided instead that “each batter shall have a fair chance to hit the ball” and “each team shall have a reasonably equal opportunity to score runs.” Key language of the Constitution is that broad, meaning that men and women appointed to the bench must necessarily exercise judgment. Which is, of course, why they are called judges, and not umpires.