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West Virginia Law Review symposium to explore flawed forensics

West Virginia Law Review Symposium

MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA — When justice hinges on forensic evidence, the science behind it must be flawless. But that is not always the case, according to the editors of the West Virginia Law Review

Juries often hear testimony on forms of forensic evidence that are not as scientifically sound as DNA testing. This branch of forensics includes hair, bite mark and shoe print comparisons. Add the fabrication of results and improper expert testimony and the outcome of a trial can be a wrongful conviction.

Professor Taylor's reflections on Justice Scalia

Professor John Taylor

MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA—Following the February 13 passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, WVU Law professor John Taylor, who teaches Constitutional Law, provided the following insight and reflections:

Justice Scalia’s Influence and Legacy

Justice Antonin Scalia will be remembered as one of the more significant Justices in the modern history of the Court. He was the intellectual leader of the Court’s conservative wing during a 30-year period when the Court moved to the right on many issues, and his ideas have influenced the terms of constitutional debate across the political spectrum.

Justice Scalia described himself as an “originalist” in constitutional interpretation, though his brand of originalism was leavened with a dose of pragmatism and (usually) respect for long-settled precedents. (“Faint-hearted originalism,” he called it.) In statutory interpretation, he stressed the primacy of the text and distrusted reliance on legislative history and legislative purposes. He brought heightened intellectual respectability to both originalism and textualism, and even his adversaries have been influenced by his positions. Originalist and textual arguments are a good deal more common in the Court’s opinions today than they were when Justice Scalia joined it. 

Justice Scalia saw himself as a proponent of judicial restraint who believed that most important decisions ought to be left to the political process (though his critics would dispute that characterization in areas like affirmative action), and for this reason he favored bright-line rules over balancing tests when crafting constitutional doctrine. He was of course a conservative jurist in most respects, but occasionally surprised his critics by taking unexpected positions (especially in the law of criminal procedure). He will perhaps be most fondly remembered for his lively writing style.

Whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions, his opinions were engaging, often memorable, and rarely dull. He will be missed.

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