The First Amendment Originalism of Justices Brennan, Scalia and Thomas
University of Denver Department of Media, Film and Journalism Studies; University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Dan V. Kozlowski
Saint Louis University - Department of Communication; Saint Louis University - School of Law
July 3, 2012
Communication Law and Policy (2012, Forthcoming)
Originalism is a mode of interpreting the U.S. Constitution that holds that the original intent or original meaning of the Constitution is not only relevant but authoritative – that judges are obligated to follow the framers’ original intent and meaning when resolving cases. Normative questions surrounding originalism’s merit have produced one of the great constitutional debates of recent decades. This article compares and contrasts the First Amendment originalism of three justices: William Brennan, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. It examines every First Amendment opinion prior to the 2011 term written by the justices that contains originalism. The article concludes all three justices used originalism to support a wide variety of arguments in a wide variety of First Amendment cases. In addition, the analysis demonstrates that Justices Scalia and Thomas more frequently supported the First Amendment in opinions in which they used originalism, a finding that contradicts the idea that originalism is associated with judicial restraint. The article contends that, with a few minor exceptions, none of the justices used originalism in a consistent way. Finally, the article offers concluding perspectives on originalism’s influence on current First Amendment jurisprudence and the limitations of using originalism for constitutional interpretations.
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 4, 2012 ; Last revised: October 5, 2012
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