Law Religion Culture Review

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

Thursday, January 20, 2005

It's a Matter of Interpretation, Part III.

Kevin Ring's new book, Scalia Dissents (2004), provides a useful summary of the generally prevailing interpretive schools in Constitutional law.

First, Ring describes the chief "liberal" theory as "that of a 'living' Constitution. The idea is that the document's meaning changes from age to age to accomodate the evolving values of the American people." (p. 6.) Ring continues: "[F]or the advocates of the 'living' Constitution, every issue is open to new and changing interpretations." (p. 7.)

Second, Ring then catalogs "a couple of modes of interpretation that are fashionable in conservative legal camps." (p. 7.) "Some judicial conservatives suggest the proper interpretation can be discerned by examining the 'original intent' of the Framers." (p. 8.) Alternatively, other legal conservatives, such as Justice Scalia opt for "original meaning". Justice Scalia "defines it as the original understanding of the text at the time it was drafted and ratified". (p. 8.) This approach is distinguished from "'strict constructionists,' who believe all words should be intepreted narrowly." (p. 8.)

We'll continuing exploring these interpretive issues in upcoming posts.