Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 17, 2005

It’s a Matter of Interpretation, Part II.

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz provides an illustrative story in his piece today about the Supreme Court. “[A]fter listening to a husband’s complaint against his wife, [a rabbi] declared, ‘You’re right, my son,’ and then after hearing the wife’s complaint about the husband declared, ‘You’re right, my daughter.’ When the rabbi’s student complained, ‘They can’t both be right,’ the rabbi shot back, ‘You’re right.’” (A. Dershowitz, “Prima Donnas in Robes”, Los Angeles Times, January 17, 2005, p. B11.)

Professor Dershowitz explains that such inconsistent results emanate from a lack of a guiding interpretive principle. “Ours is the most powerful Supreme Court on Earth. Its job is to interpret the Constitution by reference to principle and precedent.” (Id.) Of course, the next question is: what principle and what precedent? As mentioned in yesterday’s post, answering this question will be the focus of upcoming discussions about textual interpretation in both law and theological contexts.