Wednesday, January 4, 2017
An Introduction to Constitutional Originalism
Angel Leiva recently earned a law degree from Ave Maria School of Law. As part of his legal studies, Angel Leiva participated in classes at Georgetown University where he learned about constitutional originalism and the Federalist Papers.
Constitutional originalism refers to a principle of interpreting the United States Constitution. Originalism teaches that rather than being a “living” document without a fixed meaning, the Constitution is an “enduring” work with a meaning set forth by the nation’s founding fathers.
Determining the original intent of the writers of the Constitution can be difficult and sometimes requires a great deal of research into historical context, language, and meaning. In order to investigate these things thoroughly, additional historical documents often need to be consulted. Occasionally, after research is completed, a judge who adheres to originalism may find that he is forced to rule in a way that he does not favor in order to honor the original intent of the Constitution.
The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a major proponent of originalism. He acknowledged that though the philosophy is not perfect, it supports a government that is accountable to the people and limits the power of the government and judiciary.