Scalia: Judges not qualified to make moral judgments

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia railed against the era of the “judge-moralist,” saying judges are no better qualified than “Joe Sixpack” to decide moral questions such as abortion and gay marriage.

“Anyone who thinks the country’s most prominent lawyers reflect the views of the people needs a reality check,” he said during a speech to New England School of Law students and faculty at a Law Day banquet on Wednesday night.

The 70-year-old justice said the public, through elected legislatures _ not the courts _ should decide watershed questions such as the legality of abortion.

Scalia decried his own court’s recent overturning of a state anti-sodomy law, joking that he personally believes “sexual orgies eliminate tension and ought to be encouraged,” but said a panel of judges is not inherently qualified to determine the morality of such behavior.

He pointed to the granting of voting rights to women in 1920 through a constitutional amendment as the proper way for a democracy to fundamentally change its laws.

“Judicial hegemony” has replaced the public’s right to decide important moral questions, he said. Instead, he said, politics has been injected in large doses to the process of nominating and confirming federal judges.

Scalia has made similar, if less strident, comments during past public appearances.

The jurist, well-known as a strict constructionist in his interpretation of the Constitution, opened his remarks by saying, “I brought three speeches, and I decided to give the most provocative one, because this seems to be too happy a crowd.”