Does the Constitution Prescribe Rules for its Own Interpretation?
Michael Stokes Paulsen
University of St. Thomas School of Law
November, 14 2008
Northwestern University Law Review, 2009
U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-36
It is frequently assumed that the Constitution specifies no rules governing how it is to be interpreted or applied. But is this really so? This article argues that this commonly held assumption is seriously mistaken. A careful reading of the Constitution's text shows that the Constitution itself prescribes an interpretive methodology of original public meaning textualism. The Constitution sets forth these general interpretive instructions in Article VI, in language confirmed by the Enacting Clause (Preamble), the "Establishment Clause" (of Article VII), by the structure and logic of Article V, and by the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. In addition, the Constitution contains a number of specific, "retail" interpretive instructions, including the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Amendments.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 59
Keywords: Constitution, constitutional law, constitutional interpretation, originalism, textualism
Date posted: November 16, 2008