From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner comes this report on a panel presentation by Justice Scalia:
The appointment of judges is an increasingly political process in which applicants personal views are becoming more important than their legal expertise, a panel of prominent judges led by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Friday in Fairbanks.
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Scalia, who elicited most of the questions from the crowd, said he's not surprised that judicial applicants' political views have become the major consideration in whether they are confirmed by the Senate.
"I've been predicting the current crisis for 20 years," Scalia said. "I don't think it's extraordinary that members of the Senate want to ask new judges what new rights will they acknowledge."
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"You're not looking for good lawyers anymore; you shouldn't be looking for good lawyers," Scalia said. "You should be looking for people that agree with you."
Besides Scalia, the panel consisted of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Andrew Kleinfeld, who is from Fairbanks, Alaska Supreme Court Justice Robert Eastaugh and Alaska Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert Coats.
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With Kleinfeld and Scalia, an often outspoken critic of the 9th Circuit Court, sitting at the same table, it didn't take long for the discussion to turn to proposals about reducing some of the court's jurisdiction, a massive area that includes Arizona, all of the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii.
* * * Scalia said he would prefer Northern California and Southern California to be put in separate jurisdictions, though that process would likely prompt a political uproar. * * *
Scalia said decisions made by the 9th Circuit judges are reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court more often than any other jurisdiction. The problem, he said, is that the court's caseload is so large that it doesn't have time to catch faulty decisions before an appeal is made to the U.S. Supreme Court.
* * * One audience member asked the justice about his thoughts on the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism measure passed after Sept. 11, 2001, that gave government officials broad new surveillance powers and limited the information available to the public about the government.
Scalia said the more irresponsible and violent a society becomes, the more citizens' freedoms will be restricted. He said that U.S. citizens tend to interpret the Constitution as giving them more power than the document actually provides.
"I will enforce the Constitutional minimums," Scalia said. "But they are minimums. You've got to realize that."