Opinion: ‘Originalists’ sanctify the framers, some of whom owned slaves and held objectionable views on women

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch
Judge Neil Gorsuch testifies during the second day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 21, 2017.
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

To the editor: Originalists seem to think that our Constitution is complete, a flawless document written largely by our sainted founding fathers. (“Democrats voice deep skepticism at Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing for Supreme Court seat,” March 20)

But that’s the problem: Some of the framers were imperfect men who apparently had few qualms about the subjugation of women, the enslavement of blacks and the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. Many either looked the other way or participated in these acts with some vigor (Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of human beings).

Now, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) says judges “are not free to rewrite statutes to get results they believe are more just ... [or] to reorder regulations to make them more fair.”

This left me wondering just what the Supreme Court is for.

Jim Anderson, Santa Clarita


To the editor: The letters opposing Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch’s originalism leave out some critical references that clarify what this legal approach is about. (“The myth that is Neil Gorsuch’s ‘originalism,’” Readers React, March 21)

Per the claim that an originalist interpretation leaves the Constitution “rigid” and “static,” the Constitution actually provides for an amendment process that has been repeatedly used. What the framers sought was “a government of laws, not of men,” challenging Supreme Court Justice William Brennan’s and the letter writers’ preference for “coping with current problems and current needs” without going through any amending process.

There is no mention of the “natural law versus positive law” issue. In the 1960s, the Supreme Court replaced natural law (the basis of our founding document, the Declaration of Independence) with positive law without any amending process.

When these references are considered, the “static” arguments lose credibility, Brennan’s “fidelity” to “unwavering values” appears a bit hypocritical, and the dropping of natural law principles becomes rather alarming. Maybe we need to get a bit more honest in discussing the actual arguments involved in originalism.

Thomas J. Rath, Pasadena


To the editor: Trump opened his 2020 presidential campaign on Feb. 18 in Melbourne, Fla. He has since held more rallies, indicating that the 2020 campaign is in full swing.

The Republicans have clearly stated that no nominee for the Supreme Court should be considered during a campaign, and since we are clearly in the heat of one, Gorsuch should be placed on a shelf with Judge Merrick Garland until the next president is chosen.

Let the people decide.

James Lashly, Ojai

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