Justice Kennedy ‘not so sure’ on guns:’The Constitution of the United States is a flawed document’
By Bob Egelko
Monday, July 21,2014
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wasn’t out to make news when he addressed the annual conference of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and devoted most of his 50-minute speech to the Magna Carta, which turns 800 years old in 2015. But Kennedy did let on that he doesn’t belong to the school of Constitution-worshipers who base their legal doctrines on what they glean to be the original, literal meaning of every word and phrase in the nation’s founding document.
“The Constitution of the United States is a flawed document,” Kennedy said at Thursday’s windup conference session in Monterey. By “thinly veiled language,” he said, it “basically reaffirmed the legality of slavery,” referring to provisions that allowed the slave trade to continue at least until 1808 and defined each slave as three-fifths of a person when deciding how many congressional delegates to assign to each state.
The 600,000 who died in the Civil War, Kennedy said, were “one of the things it cost for having a Constitution that was flawed.”
At the same time, he said, the drafters of the Constitution had the insight to declare principles, like due process of law, that could be interpreted anew by future generations — a sacrilege to literalists like Justice Antonin Scalia, who contends the court is strictly bound by what he deems to be the original intent and meaning of the document.