The Supreme Court

July 15, 2008

Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.

-from the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, (p. 64)

In general, I try to avoid taking the tone of a moralist, and I don’t expect that many people will stumble upon my blog looking for advice on how to talk about politics, but just in case it happens, here is some advice: people interested in Supreme Court cases should read the opinions issued by the court.

For one thing, there’s simply no comparison between reading a Supreme Court opinion and reading news articles summarizing the decision; newspaper summaries give you so little information as to how a case was decided that it’s not even worthwhile to think about a Supreme Court decision based on a newspaper summary.

Fine, you get more information by going to primary sources, but that’s true of everything. What makes Supreme Court cases exceptional is that there’s no reason to avoid reading the primary documents; the court’s opinions are actually enjoyable to read. They are generally well-written, easy to understand, and interesting.

And as if the preceding reasons weren’t enough, the whole opinion is summarized in a two- or three-page Syllabus attached at the beginning of the document. Even that summary is much better than anything you will read in the newspaper.

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