On the evening of Sept. 26, Hillsdale College Assistant Professor of Politics Adam Carrington spoke to a group of students about what he called an “under-discussed” angle of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
“I think an element of the divide that is under-discussed is two understandings of the job, two theories about what judges should do,” Carrington said.
Carrington explained that what most see as a distinction between Constitutional textualism and the idea that the constitution is a living, breathing document, comes back to a more principle issue that precedes party divisions.
Those who believe in a living constitution, Carrington said, “reject the metaphysical difference between the legislative and the judicial powers. The say it’s unavoidable, that all politics is an act of will.”
Carrington, pointing to “The Federalist” essays, reasoned that the judicial branch has a very different role from the legislative branch.
“What is a judge supposed to have? Neither force nor will, but merely judgement,” Carrington said. “Judges are not supposed to exercise will, that’s the lawmaking power…judgement is an act of reason, separated from will.”
The evening concluded with a question and answer session. One student asked how judicial precedent should be approached from the perspective of a constitutional originalist.
“I think principally, you have to say the constitution rules, and the constitution should rule out over anything,” Carrington said. “We believe that it is the fundamental document, precedent be darned. Prudentially, however, it’s a tough question. If you get so far off what we believe to be constitutional, the health of the government might depend up on whether you decide right then to blow it up or not.”
The event, hosted by Young Americans for Freedom, opened the discussion in lieu of the ongoing national conversation about Kavanaugh’s hearings in the senate judiciary committee, which have been blurred by sexual misconduct allegations and staunch divisions along party lines.
Sophomore and Hillsdale College YAF Student Director Madeline Aherin called Carrington’s talk “important.”
“He talked about the qualities of a good judge and some of the questions that are circulating around the Kavanaugh hearings,” Aherin said. “He tried to push past a lot of the allegations that are circling in the news and get to what is really important when it comes to appointing a new judge.”
Aherin added that because YAF is a political group that is more focused on principle than party, Carrington’s points were especially relevant to the students attending.
Junior Adelaide Holmes agreed.
“I think this is important for us to understand. As citizens we’re supposed to be aware of what’s going on, and not only aware, but participating in it,” Holmes said.
Carrington reminded the students that how they argue is just as important as what they argue when it comes to these important questions.
“Be careful of always assuming that either side is acting only in a bad way. You might want to get down to what the principle is, and argue on that level,” Carrington said.