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PHOENIX -- In a spirited and sometimes humorous talk, the most senior justice on the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday defended being an "originalist" on the bench, surrounded by so many others who he says just get it wrong.

And Antonin Scalia said he doesn't see the situation changing any time soon.

In nearly an hour of answering questions Tuesday from members of the local Federalist Society, Scalia chided judges who he believes twist the U.S. Constitution to say what they want it to say and get the result they want.

Scalia did not name names.

But he acknowledged being in the minority in a host of rulings by the nation's high court. And he said while he'd rather his colleagues see things his way, it does give him a certain amount of freedom in writing a dissent.

"The most important element of a good dissent is a really stupid majority decision," he said.

Such as?

He singled out a 2001 ruling in a case brought by a golfer who had a circulatory disorder and wanted to be able to use a cart to play in the PGA tour. The majority cited the Americans with Disabilities Act in siding with the golfer, with Scalia, joined only by Clarence Thomas, in dissent.

Scalia said much of the case turned on whether walking was essential to the game of golf.

"It's a game!" the justice told his audience.

"Whatever the rules are, you follow the rules," Scalia continued. "If they say you have to hit it with a Coca-Cola bottle, you have to hit it with a Coca-Cola bottle."

Scalia said there's a reason that cases go this way, saying that using the Constitution to achieve a desired result is "a very seductive philosophy" versus what the words actually say -- or what has been enacted by lawmakers.

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"It's a lot more satisfying to ask yourself, 'What ought the Constitution to say?'" he said, and then "squeeze it in under the Equal Protection Clause or the Due Process Clause."

The same is true for interpreting laws, he said, even ones he said are poorly considered or crafted.

"The rule for me is 'garbage in, garbage out,"' Scalia said. "If they've given me a stupid statute I am bound by oath to produce a stupid result."

But Scalia said the process of confirming judges is likely to lead to more people on the bench like those with whom he often finds himself at odds, even when the nominees are selected by Republican presidents. And he blames the Democrats who, while not always in the majority, managed to impose their will on the process.

"They have something they are adamant about: We will not confirm anybody who will overrule Roe v. Wade, which means we will not confirm any originalist," Scalia said, the historic case which said women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

He said the Republicans have their own principles, too.

"Their principle is: We will not have a litmus test," Scalia said. "Who's going to win that one?"

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Editor

Chris Etling is a copy editor and paginator at the Arizona Daily Sun. He's worked for the Daily Sun since November 2009.

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