U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA-04) this week used race to disparage people who believe in originalism when interpreting the U.S. Constitution.
Johnson, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, made these remarks during a hearing about diversity on the federal bench.
“Certainly, some who may tend toward originalism may believe that white males interpreting the Constitution through the eyes of a white male who existed back when the Constitution was written suffices for today’s realities,” Johnson said.
“But it’s scary to people who go to court, and all they see are white males on the bench.”
According to ConstitutionCenter.org, originalists believe the public should interpret constitutional text with the same original public meaning it had at the time it originated as law. In contrast, living constitutionalists believe the meaning of the U.S. Constitution changes over time.
This is not the first time in recent months that Johnson has questioned how the judiciary operates.
Johnson, in May, said members of the public should prepare for several Congressional hearings where he and other elected officials will pitch their case for increasing the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices.
Johnson chairs the U.S. House of Representatives’ Courts and Intellectual Property Subcommittee. Staff at the Decatur-based website Decaturish.com interviewed Johnson in May in a question-and-answer-style format. The congressman said expanding the number of seats on the U.S. Supreme Court “will…gather support as we make the case for reform in the justice system.”
“The courts are not equipped to handle today’s flow of cases. The Supreme Court has been set at nine since 1869. That’s 152 years ago. It’s gone through seven changes in size since the nation was founded. What’s happened since that time, the nation’s population has increased. The flow of commerce has increased,” the website quoted Johnson as saying.
“The amount of criminal activity has increased. The law has become more complex, because [the] session of Congress sees new laws placed on the books that oftentimes have to be enforced in the courts. The court itself has not kept up with that pace of change. Now is the time to correct the imbalance and establish a court that has greater capacity to render justice.”
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