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Scalia At Texas Tech: 'Constitution Is Not A Living Document'

This story was written by Mike Graham, Daily Toreador

The second-most senior U.S. Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia, addressed a crowd of about 5,000 people Friday evening at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center's Exhibit Hall as a part of the Sandra Day O'Connor lecture series.

During the lecture, Scalia discussed his belief that the U.S. Constitution should not be taken as a living, ever-changing document.

"The Constitution is not a living document," he said. "It is a legal document."

Scalia suggested that people should create the nation's laws instead of allowing the courts to decide the laws.

He interjected some humor into the 37-minute speech, including poking fun at theorists who believe the Constitution is a "living document."

"The living constitutionalist is always a happy person," he said.

People who believe the Constitution is a living document believe it is malleable and can be changed so it reflects their intentions, Scalia said, but he believes the Constitution should be interpreted literally from a legal aspect.

Scalia backed up his philosophy of interpreting the Constitution literally by citing a time during his tenure on the Supreme Court when he voted that American flag-burning was a constitutional First Amendment right, despite his personal opinion against flag-burning.

"The living constitutionalist never has to confront those things," Scalia said.

Scalia's trip to Lubbock was funded by a Houston-based attorney and 1984 Tech law school graduate, Mark Lanier, who is considered one of the top-10 trial lawyers in the nation, according to legal peer reviews cited by Tech School of Law dean Walter Huffman.

"We've got a great school in Texas Tech," Lanier said. "It's a goal of Becky, my wife, and I to see that the school's reputation gets out to the public more. One way we can do that is that we've got some contacts with some people who will do us the kindness of coming out here and speaking. When I was growing up in Lubbock, Texas Tech brought out some outstanding people that I had to pleasure of meeting and listening to and we just want to continue that tradition."

Scalia was the third U.S. Supreme Court justice to visit Tech. O'Connor visited Tech in 2007 as the inaugural speaker of the lecture series named in her honor and Justice Clarence Thomas has visited in the past.

Scalia began his speech by saying he was proud to be the second speaker of the O'Connor Lecture Series.

"(O'Connor is) a good friend of mine," he said. "I'm very happy to continue the lecture series named in her honor."

Scalia was introduced by Huffman, Lanier and New York University law professor Arthur R. Miller.

Huffman thanked those in attendance for coming to the lecture and thanked Lanier for his generosity in bringing Scalia to Lubbock. Lanier then introduced Miller.

Miller humorously introduced Scalia to the audience as "colorful, controversial, combative and, of course, conservative." He called the Supreme Court a set of eight gray pigeons and Scalia a colorful parrot.

Lanier said Scalia was surprised so many people came to hear him speak at the Civic Center.

"The justice was blown away by the attendance here," Lanier said. "He said to me, 'I could go to New York City and speak on a Friday night and this many people would not show up.' It's an incredible testimony to our university, to our students and to the community at large."

Huffman said Scalia will visit with law students Monday before returning to Washington D.C.

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