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Saturday, November 9, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters To The Editor

Justice Scalia's Comment -- Supreme Court Should Decide Constitutional Issues Only

You were critical of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's public comment about a pending case when Scalia said it is "absolutely plain that there is no right to die. . . . It does not belong in the Supreme Court as a constitutional question." (Seattle Times editorial, Nov. 5.) You declared that it is wrong for a justice to make a comment that pertains to a pending case because judgments should be made on a case-by-case basis.

Judgments about individual cases, yes. But not judgments about principles. If a county judge had an upcoming armed-robbery case, would you criticize him for saying armed robbery is always wrong? Would you say, "But the judge does not even know what type of weapon was used, or how much was stolen. He is not familiar with the facts in this case"?

Of course you would not. If you agree that armed robbery is always wrong, then the details of any individual act of armed robbery are superfluous to determining whether the act itself was wrong. (Guilt or innocence is another issue entirely.)

That was the crucial point of Scalia's comment. It was not about a pending case; it was about the U.S. Constitution and that document's purview. He is quite right that the right to die simply is not mentioned there, and therefore any cases concerning the right to die are not appropriate for the Supreme Court; they should be decided at lower levels.

I'm no Scalia lover, but I cannot help but admire his conviction that the purpose of the U.S. Supreme Court is to decide constitutional issues and not to make policy. The hear-every-case approach you advocated is what has allowed so many justices to impose their ideologies on the nation.

Yes, Scalia has a well-documented, very conservative ideology, but his belief is that no Supreme Court justice - including himself - should be allowed to impose ideology on this nation. The sole purpose of the Supreme Court is to determine the constitutionality of a law or judgment. Scalia knows this and lives the creed. Bill Muse Seattle

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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