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"Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law" by Herbert Wechsler and the Brown v. the Board of Education Legal Decision

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  1. Personal values entering into the decision
  2. Decisions and judgments based on opinion

In "Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law", Herbert Wechsler brings up difficult issues that are eternally present in cases that make their way up to the Supreme Court. While we often deny these issues and simply assume that the court is making a decision that is "Constitutional" and "reasonable", by deeply analyzing certain cases, we are confronted with the fact that there are many areas of grey with no easy solutions. In the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case, Wechsler criticizes the pretense that the judges have used a "neutral" approach to come to their decision.

[...] Ferguson was decided using the same principles in the same Constitution, and yet the conclusion in the case was the opposite. Wechsler then argues that it would be incorrect to suggest that this reinterpretation hinges on the idea that Plessy assumed that school facilities were equal, whereas Brown proved that the equality did not exist. Instead, he argues that the reinterpretation exists not because of this perceived inequality, but for other reasons. Wechsler writes, Does it not involve an inquiry into the motive of the legislature, which is generally foreclosed to the courts? [...]


[...] Wechsler writes, is there a basis in neutral principles for holding that the Constitution demands that the claims for association should prevail? I should like to think there is, but I confess that I have not yet written the opinion.[2] With these words, Wechsler comments on the difficulty of establishing a principle of neutrality in such a case. The truth is, in my opinion, that the Constitution is simply not long enough to provide us with an answer to every possible dilemma. [...]

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