Sunday, July 5, 2015

Who Gets to Interpret the Constitution?

Michael Stokes Paulsen, distinguished university chair and professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, provides a primer on constitutional law in two parts over at the Witherspoon Institute: part 1 and part 2. Below is a snippet from part 2:
Who gets to interpret the Constitution? The law-school-course answer is “Well, the Supreme Court, of course! They’re supreme, after all!”
This is clearly the wrong answer. The right answer is that the Constitution does not specify a single authoritative constitutional interpreter, and that this is a singular, defining feature of its text and structure. In this respect, the American Constitution contrasts rather sharply with the approach of some nations that have a designated “Constitutional Court” with explicit textual authority to resolve all questions of constitutional interpretation. The structure of the US Constitution—separation of powers, with each branch independent in the exercise of its authority and with no branch literally bound by the actions or judgments of any other branch—refutes the notion that anything the courts say goes.

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