Hattip to Ann Althouse. My hero, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has been guilty of being brilliant again. Writing in dissent in the case of Sykes v. United States, he took head on what is becoming a huge problem: almost comically inept legislation passed by Congress:
We face a Congress that puts forth an ever-increasing volume of laws in general, and of criminal laws in particular. It should be no surprise that as the volume increases, so do the number of imprecise laws. And no surprise that our indulgence of imprecisions that violate the Constitution encourages imprecisions that violate the Constitution. Fuzzy, leave-the-details-to-be-sorted-out-by-the-courts legislation is attractive to the Congressman who wants credit for addressing a national problem but does not have the time (or perhaps the votes) to grapple with the nittygritty. In the field of criminal law, at least, it is time to call a halt. I do not think it would be a radical step—indeed, I think it would be highly responsible—to limit ACCA to the named violent crimes. Congress can quickly add what it wishes. Because the majority prefers to let vagueness reign, I respectfully dissent.
Go here to read the whole magnificent dissent. As faithful readers of this blog know, I am an ever harsh critic of the judicial branch. However, much of the problem with the judicial branch on both the state and federal levels is that Congress and the state legislatures pass legislation, often very poorly crafted, filled with ambiguities, mistakes, omissions and sections that are sometimes near incomprehensible. Courts then have to interpret these pieces of gibberish when cases arise, and the results often satisfy no one. We live in sloppy times, when basic literacy and elementary logic often seem to be steadily diminishing resources, and no where is that more evident than in the quality of our legislators and their staffs. Our Founding Fathers gave us a system of self-government that functions only if We the People elect men and women of sound morality, intelligence and character to lead us. Our failure to carry out our part of this equation is too self-evident to require further commentary here.