Have you ever noticed how something someone else said might not bother you but will agitate someone else? For instance, a person walking down the road dropping her new iPhone 6 to the ground exclaiming “Oh my God!” may in fact agitate some onlookers who find this remark to be incredibly blasphemous. Why does this occur? It is but a matter of interpretation of the word said. The phrase may carry of different significance for all around. To some, this remark is simply unacceptable since there might be certain institutional regulations that encourage people to refrain from using such language. However, for others that may not be the case. Regardless, let’s change the scenario and now extend the scope to include everyone here in the United States who is under the law and focus on interpretation of regulations.
When people to not adhere to the law, they are taken to court. It is then the judge’s job to interpret the law and act accordingly based off the materials presented to them. The important thing, which affects the outcome, is the interpretation of the law. As humans, we are flawed. The question then arises, how is it that humans, infallibly flawed, are able to arrive to conclusions on how to best interpret the law as is?
Antonin Scalia, labeled as an originist and textualist, is a member of the Supreme Court Justice who wrote a book, A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and The Law. An originist is essentially a person who looks at the foundation of how and when a law is created. A textualist is a person who abides by what the text indicates. I interpret a textualist to view things as eitherright or wrong, black or white, according to the law. Interestingly, Scalia mentions how much is considered when looking at the letter of the law. Decisions that have been made in previous cases are looked at to serve as a model. What is more noteworthy is the fact that previous cases, in which the case is similar but the outcome is different , are more likely to be searched for as it serves as qualifications.
At first, I did not pay much attention to this. I mean, judges are supposed to be good at what they do, right. Right? The “Case of the Speluncean Explorers” opened my eyes. Here’s a quick rundown: Five men are stuck underground as a result of an unexpected landslide, isolating them for almost a month. During the first week, they had communication with the outside world, during which one of them had inquired if they would be able to live with the rations they had. Unfortunately they would not be able to. Upon knowing this information, they then asked how long they would last if they ate one of their peers. Long story short, they ate one of the peers who had said they were not willing to participate in the determining of who they would eat. They had resorted to this after authorities outside refused to say whether or not to resort to eating one of them or how to determine doing so. Alas, once the four of five men were rescued, the judges were presented with a very difficult case. Would these men be acquitted or affirmed for eating one of their peers based of the law stating that a man who willing murders a man is guilty of murder? All the judges presented various reasons as to why they would acquit or affirm them, and one withheld his judgment.
Some of us proclaimed them to be guilty while others would’ve acquitted them. Sticking strictly to the law, they are guilty. Yet, under the circumstances they were faced with, I believe these men should be acquitted based on the notion that it is very unlikely that these men would find themselves in this. Basically, I interpret the law of a person willingly taking the life of another as not applicable to these men as a result of the scenario they were in. Some may state that according to law, regardless of the situation, are indeed guilty as they did murder their peer.
If you were a judge, what would you have done?