Constitutional interpretation, often called judicial interpretation, is defined as a theory or mode of thought that explains how the judiciary should interpret the law, particularly constitutional documents and legislation . There are two main types of interpretation: strict constructionist and loose constructionist. The two types have many differences, although both strive to attain the same end: to make the best judicial decision possible. Examples of constitutional interpretation can be found in past and present cases, such as Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton as they debated the national bank, and Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia, two present day justices with very opposing views. Strict and loose constructionists have very differing opinions and tendencies; however, both have been applied in the past and the present and are essential to understanding constitutional interpretation. Constitutional interpretation is important because it affects every citizen in some way and can be used to arrive at completely different decisions on similar cases.
A strict constructionist believes in, an approach to constitutional interpretation that emphasizes the framer's original intentions (O'Connor and Sabato 367). For the most part, people who support the strict constructionist view also support judicial restraint. Judicial restraint is, a philosophy of judicial decision making that argues courts should allow the decisions of other branches of government to stand, even when they offend a judge's own sense of principles (367). People who agree with the strict constructionist view believe that the Constitution should only be interpreted by judges in the literal sense. Deviating away from what the Constitution explicitly states is viewed as giving the judiciary some powers in creating laws, which is not granted by the Constitution.
On the other hand, loose constructionists, sometimes referred to as broad constructionists, believe in an interpretation of the Constitution that holds that the spirit of the times, the values of justices, and the needs of the nation may legitimately influence the decisions of a court (Judicial Review). Those who follow this theory of interpretation usually agree with the practice of judicial activism which is, a philosophy of judicial decision making that argues judges should use their power broadly to further justice, especially in the areas of equality and liberty (O'Connor and Sabato 367). An important aspect to note about judicial activism is that it implies the correction of past injustices and mistakes committed by the court. The country is obviously dynamic, so activism has a solid foundation to build upon.
[...] Because Hamilton sided with the loose interpretations of the Constitution, he reasoned that the government had implied powers, and that those implied powers gave them the constitutional right to establish a national bank. Later, in 1819, the court case McCulloch v. Maryland was heard in the Supreme Court. In this case, the Supreme Court decided that because of the “Necessary and Proper” clause, the government had the right to establish a second national bank. The court also ruled that Maryland did not have the constitutional right to tax the bank. [...]
[...] So the question stands: Why is constitutional interpretation important, and how does it affect the citizenry of the United States? One simple answer to this question is constitutional interpretation is so important because it affects the citizens so greatly. Depending on a judge's interpretation theory, one case could have many different outcomes. The decision in any court case would depend significantly on if the judge read the Constitution text literally, looked for the original intent of the Constitution, or applied current issues and therefore created new rulings. [...]
[...] The most obvious, practical example of constitutional interpretation is the debate over the establishment of a national bank which took place between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton in 1791. Thomas Jefferson represented the strict constructionist side of the argument, while Alexander Hamilton provided the loose constructionist view. The cause of the debate was the actual constitutionality of establishing a national bank. Jefferson believed the national bank should not be created because he felt that the power to create such an institution was not delegated to the government by the Constitution (“Jefferson' Opinion”). [...]
[...] A modern day example of differences in constitutional interpretation styles exists in the opinions of Justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia. Breyer is often labeled as a loose constructionist while Scalia is labeled as a strict constructionist. Scalia, however, disagrees with the term “strict constructionist.” In his book, A Matter of Interpretation, he writes, am not a strict constructionist, and no one ought to be (Scalia 23). Scalia proclaims himself to be an originalist and textualist. He proclaims that in order to be a textualist in good standing [o]ne need only to hold the belief that judges have no authority to pursue . [...]
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