Here is the second part of Professor Michael Stokes Paulsen’s terrific two-part article (I excerpted part one here). I have to bold this first section — it is the introductory text where it is posted at Public Discouse:
“Constitutional law” is not the exclusive domain of the courts, or even of government officials. Faithful interpretation is the duty and responsibility of faithful citizens.
Amen! I even like the title chosen for part two — so I had to use it above as well.
So many of those with a law degree feel pain when reading that because they think they’ve been given the keys to the kingdom, whereas everyone who hasn’t attended law school is a lesser being. It makes me laugh just to think about it.
Here are Paulsen’s opening two paragraphs which are merely a review, then follow the link to read the entire article.
Yesterday, I began my two-day mini-review of every essential principle of constitutional interpretation. If you’re a first-year law student, desperately cramming for the final exam, I hope this hasn’t arrived too late to save you! If you’re a regular old non-lawyer real person, I hope this is a useful window into what is really going on in the unnecessarily mystical field of “Constitutional Law.”
To review, there are basically five techniques of constitutional interpretation that courts and commentators employ: (1) arguments from the straightforward, natural, original linguistic meaning of the text; (2) arguments from the structure, logic, and relationships created by the document as a whole; (3) arguments from history, original intention, or purposes behind an enacted text; (4) arguments from precedent; and (5) arguments from policy.