It's a difficult thing for many to accept, but the law is the law, and it doesn't change just because we want it to be changed. The Constitution is law. Chief Justice Roberts accepts this; Senator Reid does not, at least completely.
Justice Roberts reminded listeners of his speech matter of factly that our Federal Government is one that is limited to certain enumerated powers. Only the legislative branch can make the law. It is the judicial branch's responsibility to know what the law is, as it (the Constitution) was intended by the Founders of our country, and as it (on-going law) was intended by the legislators who passed it. Because the Constitution is the "Supreme Law", the judiciary must be qualified to declare any laws which go against the tenor of the Constitution null and void. The Supreme Court can interpret the Constitution, because it is law, but Justices must restrain themselves from the temptation to go beyond that constitutional limit.
Justice Roberts stated that Justices are allowed only to exercise judgment, and not to make political decisions. They need to keep themselves unfettered from outside influence so that they can make correct decisions, according to the Constitution, which decisions sometimes will be wildly unpopular. This is why judges were given lifetime tenure.
Here are some of the other ideas (I paraphrase) that Justice Roberts discussed:
- There are some things that the Constitution allows the federal government to do exclusively, some things it allows state governments to do exclusively, and other things that it prohibits either from doing.
- The first building in Washington D.C. was the White House for the President. The second building was the Capitol, to house Congress. The third building was the Patent Office. It was not until 1935 that the Supreme Court had a building constructed for it. This illustrates that the Supreme Court is important, but was seen to have a clearly limited function.
- It is clear that the regulation of commerce in the Constitution allows for the regulation of air travel, even though the Founders knew nothing of air travel. This does NOT mean, however, that the Constitution can be changed or interpreted on a whim. The Amendment process for the Constitution is very clear, and has been used, successfully and unsuccessfully, many times. This is the only way that the Constitution can be changed.
- The Founders came from all walks of life, but all were keen as to the importance of civic virtue. One of the greatest of civic virtues is to uphold the law as it was intended by those who made it. If we want to know what the Constitution means, in addition to the Constitution itself, two great places to start are The Federalist Papers and James Madison's notes on the Constitutional Convention.
We must remind ourselves that we are a nation that is ruled by law and not by mankind. It is critical that we are represented in government by individuals who understand that thinking with our hearts must be tempered with logical, lawful thinking. Heartfelt thinking may inform our logical thinking that something is wrong with the law. But it is lawful thinking which understands that when the law is incorrect, it must be changed by lawful means. If it is the Constitution, the only lawful means of changing it is the Amendment process.
Chief Justice John Roberts understands this concept well. I am proud to know that he is the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.