Gavel Grab

Scholars Promote Theory for 'Principled Constitutionalism'

After conservatives have “effectively framed the national debate over constitutional interpretation” for 40 years, it is time for progressives to “set the record straight,” two prominent constitutional scholars write.

Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago and William P. Marshall of the University of North Carolina offer their analysis in an issue brief entitled “The Framers’ Constitution: Toward a Theory of Principled Constitutionalism,” published online by the American Constitution Society and also in Huffington Post. Stone  is board chairman of the ACS.

Stone and Marshall hit the “conservative constitutional narrative” as  ”deeply unprincipled and patently wrong.” They say a “principled” reading of the Constitution requires judges to exercise judicial restraint and defer to political decision-making, except where there is “good reason to believe that the [political] process itself may have been tainted,” such as when governing majorities disadvantage historically vulnerable minority groups, or where they use their authority to stifle critics.

“In the end,” Stone and Marshall conclude, “constitutional interpretation is not a mechanical enterprise. It requires judges to exercise judgment. It calls upon them to consider text; history; precedent; values; changing social, economic, technological, and cultural conditions; and the practical realities of the times.”


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