Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts By Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner (Thomson/West, 567 pp., $49.95)
From the review of the book by Judge Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals:
Scalia is a pertinacious critic of the use of legislative history to illuminate statutory meaning; and one reason for his criticism is that a legislature is a hydra-headed body whose members may not share a common view of the interpretive issues likely to be engendered by a statute that they are considering enacting. But when he looks for the original meaning of eighteenth-century constitutional provisions—as he did in his opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, holding that an ordinance forbidding people to own handguns even for the defense of their homes violated the Second Amendment—Scalia is doing legislative history.
Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III has argued that because the historical analysis in Heller is (from the standpoint of advocates of a constitutional right to own handguns for personal self-defense) at best inconclusive, judicial self-restraint dictated that the District of Columbia’s ordinance not be invalidated. His argument derives new support from a surprising source: Judge Easterbrook’s foreword to Scalia and Garner’s book. The foreword lauds the book to the skies, but toward the end it strikes the following subversive note: “Words don’t have intrinsic meanings; the significance of an expression depends on how the interpretive community alive at the time of the text’s adoption under-stood those words. The older the text, the more distant that interpretive community from our own. At some point the difference becomes so great that the meaning is no longer recoverable reliably.” When that happens, Easterbrook continues, the courts should “declare that meaning has been lost, so that the living political community must choose.” The “living political community” in Heller consisted of the elected officials, and the electorate, of the District of Columbia.
Interesting - Judge Easterbrook is Judge Posner's fellow judge on the 7th Circuit. And this from Posner's review: "Omitting contrary evidence turns out to be Scalia and Garner’s favorite rhetorical device."