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Georgetown University Law Center

Originalism

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Against Textualism, William Michael Treanor Jan 2009

Against Textualism, William Michael Treanor

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Modern textualists have assumed that careful attention to constitutional text is the key to the recovery of the Constitution's original public meaning. This article challenges that assumption by showing the importance of nontextual factors in early constitutional interpretation. The Founding generation consistently relied on structural concerns, policy, ratifiers' and drafters' intent, and broad principles of government. To exclude such nontextual factors from constitutional interpretation is to depart from original public meaning because the Founders gave these factors great weight in ascertaining meaning. Moreover, for a modern judge seeking to apply original public meaning, the threshold question is not simply ...


Scalia's Infidelity: A Critique Of "Faint-Hearted" Originalism, Randy E. Barnett Jan 2006

Scalia's Infidelity: A Critique Of "Faint-Hearted" Originalism, Randy E. Barnett

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In this essay, based on the 2006 William Howard Taft lecture, the author critically evaluates Justice Antonin Scalia's famous and influential 1988 Taft Lecture, entitled Originalism: The Lesser Evil. In his lecture, Justice Scalia began the now-widely-accepted shift from basing constitutional interpretation on the intent of the framers to relying instead on the original public meaning of the text. At the same time, the essay explains how Justice Scalia allows himself three ways to escape originalist results that he finds to be objectionable: (1) when the text is insufficiently rule-like, (2) when precedent has deviated from original meaning and ...


The Case Of The Prisoners And The Origins Of Judicial Review, William Michael Treanor Jan 1994

The Case Of The Prisoners And The Origins Of Judicial Review, William Michael Treanor

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

For over one hundred years, scholars have closely studied the handful of cases in which state courts, in the years before the Federal Constitutional Convention, confronted the question whether they had the power to declare laws invalid. Interest in these early cases began in the late nineteenth century as one aspect of the larger debate about the legitimacy of judicial review, a debate triggered by the increasing frequency with which the Supreme Court and state courts were invalidating economic and social legislation. The lawyers, political scientists, and historians who initially unearthed the case law from the 1770s and 1780s used ...


Taking The Framers Seriously, William Michael Treanor Jan 1988

Taking The Framers Seriously, William Michael Treanor

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

This article reviews Taking the Constitution Seriously by Walter Berns (1987).

This review focuses on three of the key historical points that Walter Berns makes: his arguments that the Declaration of Independence is a Lockean document; that the Constitution encapsulates the political philosophy of the Declaration; and that the framers viewed the commercialization of society as a salutary development and were unambivalent champions of the right to property. Examination of these issues suggests that the ideological universe of the framers was far more complex than Berns indicates. While the revolutionary era witnessed a new concern with individual rights and a ...