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Letter: Only textualists and originalists belong on the U.S. Supreme Court

Over 800 years ago, a group of English barons demanded the Norman king sign the Great Charter of Liberties, the Magna Carta. This was one of the earliest delineations of a rule of law in lieu of the divine right of autocrats, kings, cardinals and tyrants.

The rule of law took a major step forward in 1789 with the adoption of the Constitution of the United States of America. It has been described as the supreme law of the land, super law and fundamental law. It defines the relationship between citizens and their government. In the tradition of the Magna Carta, it confirms all are equally subject to publicly disclosed legal code and processes. In other words, it solidified the rule of law.

The drafters acknowledged they had made numerous compromises in convention and they were themselves fallible. That given, they anticipated and provided means to amend the Constitution. It was allowed, but not to be undertaken lightly, or most importantly, undemocratically. Under those conditions, 12 amendments were submitted almost immediately. Ten were ratified quickly and enshrined as The Bill of Rights.

Since then, the Constitution has been amended only 17 more times. This fact has left a lot of frustrated individuals and interest groups that have tried but failed to garner the super majorities necessary to modify our Constitution, the fundamental basis in America for the rule of law.

In response a strategy developed. It could be possible to simply reinterpret the clearly written words or read between the lines. If one knows a little American history and has actually read The Federalists Papers, original intent is obvious and unambiguous. If one does not agree with what is clearly written in the Constitution, reinterpretation as opposed to amendment undermines the entire structure of the rule of law. If undemocratic means can be used to alter Constitutional law, no legislative act is sacred and we have descended into despotism by judges and courts.

One needs a lot of imagination to read into the Constitution anything but what is written. If you subscribe to the rule of law, you should pray that only textualists and originalists will ever serve on the Supreme Court. It simply comes down to a choice between democracy and despotism.

Handegard lives in West Fargo.

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