Law, Music and stretching the Notes

One can just imagine Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas attending a football game in Washington D.C. and hearing the singing of the national anthem by Whitney Houston. Whitney does not necessarily limit her vocalization to the written notation of the song. She embellishes and vocally creates beautiful flourishes with the music, which the audience generally appreciates with wild applause. And Clarence Thomas would probably sit there, grimacing, shaking his head. "No! No!" thinks Justice Thomas. "That is NOT the national anthem. That is not how it was written. That is NOT the national anthem."

Guitar players begin their careers mastering technical proficiency on the instrument. They learn to read the music and execute the songs as written. But as they master the instrument, strictly literal interpretation of the written music becomes less and less challenging, and they begin to improvise. One technique involves literally stretching the strings of the guitar with the left hand of a right-handed guitar picker. This creates a nice effect that adds texture to the music, while maintaining the general feel of the written song. A stretched note is not a literal note as written, it can even change the timing of the song slightly, but it adds to the intent of the writer of the song in creating appealing music.

The practice of jurisprudence need not limit itself to strictly literal interpretation of laws, including the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution can be compared to a song. It is written for a purpose. The song is to entertain and perhaps inspire. The Constitution is to guide government in helping people to enjoy life in recognition of God-given rights, not rights invented by people. The best justices are those who understand that the goal is not to limit doing of good for people by limiting interpretation of the constitution in minimalist fashion, but to maximize good for people under the spirit of the constitution as well as the letter of it.

According to the founding fathers, God gave us inalienable rights. Men attempt to pursue their own rights and privileges, often at the expense of others. The constitution is supposed to make things fair and make justice the goal for all. A great judge or Supreme Court justice can be like a great vocalist or musician. The song does not suffer because the note is stretched. The guitar solo is more bland and less appealing when played with mere technical proficiency. Technical proficiency in interpreting law is no great skill or art. The desired art is to stay within certain parameters of the tune, while stretching that tune to help people get justice.

A great Supreme Court justice seeks to expand liberty for people who otherwise might find their options limited by those with more power. Without the court, the mighty have ALL the advantages. The court uses constitutional guidelines as a framework to dispense real justice. Bending the strings is allowed, is noble and expands the beauty of the song.

A great guitar player might not even be trained to read music. The skill is in the practice of performing music, not in the mental aspect of reading it. The head is useful, but the heart is all-important.

Some justices seem to have neither the head nor the heart for making beautiful justice. Some have the head, but not the heart. If in doubt, cast out the nomination, and find the heart of justice that can create beautiful music while interpreting the constitution for the good of the weak and the downtrodden. That is the most beautiful justice and music of all.