The Debate On Constitutional Interpretation

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The debate on Constitutional interpretation is far from a new one. For years, the argument over how the Constitution should be read has varied, from the strict textualist approach to the most lenient, the instrumentalist position. The Constitution has long been referred to in terms of being a living or dead document, and its interpretation has significant ramifications on this country’s legal climate. This paper will analyze and compare two different forms of Constitutional interpretation: originalism and activism. While the intent of the Framers should certainly not be ignored in reading and applying the Constitution’s words, it is important to view the document with a certain degree of modernity. The originalist approach towards…show more content…
He posits that each word is the result of arduous argument between the Framers and that to take an approach that doesn’t view the Constitution with the intent of the Framers in mind is to ignore the document’s meaning. Perhaps his most persuasive attack on the activist position was his argument against the use of penumbras, a concept heavily used by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut. “Specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance. Various guarantees create zones of privacy. . .retained by the people.” Meese swiftly combats this idea by mocking the very nature of penumbras and their use. He writes, “Instead they have grounded their rulings in appeals to social theories, to moral philosophies or personal notions of human dignity, or to ‘penumbras,’ somehow emanating ghostlike from various provisions -identified and not identified - in the Bill of Rights.” This is a logically sound point that aptly points out a major flaw of the penumbral argument - if this interpretation doesn’t come from the body of the Constitution, let alone the Framers’ intent, there is no Constitutional interpretation happening whatsoever. Meese’s argument greatly falters, however, when he admits that the Framers could not foresee all issues that would arise for judicial review. This simple sentiment effectively invalidates the rest of his argument by admitting
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