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One member of the U.S. Supreme Court, whose members are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, says she would look elsewhere – Canada, South Africa and Europe – should she be tasked with writing a constitution now.
The stunning statements come from Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
She was being interviewed by Al Hayat in Egypt, which is trying to develop a government after citizens deposed longtime dictator President Hosni Mubarack last year.
Egypt is facing major obstacles to a democratic form of government as the Muslim Brotherhood as a political party has been assembling a majority in the country. Among its goals is a Muslim caliphate worldwide.
She was asked: “Would your honor’s advice be to get a part of other countries’ constitutions as a model, or should we develop our own draft?
“You should certainly be aided by all the constitution-writing that has gone on since the end of World War II. I would not look to the U.S. constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary. It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done.
“Much more recent than the U.S. Constitution is Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It dates from 1982. You would almost certainly look at the European Convention on Human Rights. Yes, why not take advantage of what there is elsewhere in the world? I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.”
Mathew Staver, chief of Liberty Counsel, said her attitude is problematic.
“For a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice to speak derisively about the Constitution she is sworn to uphold is distressing, to say the least. Justice Ginsburg’s comments about our Constitution undermine the Supreme Court as an institution dedicated to the rule of law, as well as our founding document.”
According to Liberty Counsel, “For a United States Supreme Court justice, entrusted with the duty to interpret the Constitution, this type of statement is unacceptable. Justice Ginsburg failed to respect the authority of the document that it is her duty to protect. When given the opportunity to promote American liberty abroad, Justice Ginsburg did just the opposite and pointed Egypt in the direction of progressivism and the liberal agenda.”
Ginsburg also noted that among her favorite parts of the Constitutions is the provision that judges’ salaries cannot be reduced, as well as a guarantee of independence to judges.
She also said the U.S. Constitution is “rather old,” and told Egyptians that a constitution will mean nothing unless the people it serves and protects desire liberty and freedom.
“If the people don’t care, then the best constitution in the world won’t make any difference,” she said.
In a commentary at Slate, David Weigel said, “Ginsburg has disturbed the balance of the universe by giving an interview to Egyptian television in which she does not recommend using the U.S. Constitution as a model for post-Mubarak happiness.”
He continued, “If you want, here you go: Proof that a Supreme Court justice … looks to other countries for advice on an evolving Constitution! Of course, we’ve known this about Ginsburg for years, because she’s said so repeatedly.”
At American Spectator, John Tabin said she “gets one of nine votes on the functional meaning of the U.S. Constitution. That she thinks the age of the Constitution she’s charged with interpreting make[s] it deficient relative to newer constitutions is kind of shocking, particularly in the context of her praise for the rights enshrined in the First Amendment – rights that, in practice, are protected far less robustly in South Africa or Canada or Europe than they are in the U.S.