Supreme Court justice Scalia helps students understand the Constitution

Judge recommends `Federalist Papers'

April 16, 1999|By Young Chang | Young Chang,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke to high school students at the Park School yesterday about the Constitution, telling them they should read the "Federalist Papers" for a better understanding of the document.

Scalia said the essays, written between 1787 and 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, would serve the students better than "listening to me."

About 300 students from the upper school heard the conservative justice speak at Park's Meyerhoff Theater. Many raised their hands afterward, and a few were called on to speak.

"The Constitution doesn't really interest me all that much," said junior Krystal Talley. "But I found [Scalia] interesting."

Eugenia Gusev, a senior, said: "He really knew his stuff, and I didn't feel like he spoke down to us."

Quipped Scalia: "They stayed awake, and they didn't throw anything."

Scalia's visit to the Park School was not unusual. Upper-school Principal Mike McGill, a relative of Scalia's, said the justice, a former law professor at Stanford and the University of Chicago, visits Baltimore often.

"The students have been working for two weeks and preparing for his visit," said Hillary Jacobs, a school spokeswoman.

Homework included reading Scalia's cases as well as the opinions of opponents of the justice's views on the Constitution and state's rights.

In his nearly 90-minute lecture, Scalia discussed his opposition to a concept he calls the "living Constitution," in which -- for liberals and conservatives -- the document becomes flexible and easily adapted to any situation.

Arguing that the Constitution is "not an organism," Scalia urged his audience not to "play games with the Constitution."

"I am one of that small band of judges who are called originalists," he said. The Constitution "means today just what it meant when it was adopted."

Pub Date: 4/16/99

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