Interpreting the Constitution: Stability v. Needs

37 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2011

Date Written: January 1, 1986


When the United States Supreme Court uses the Constitution to decide a case how should the court apply the document? Should the justices look at the Constitution as a stable historical written document and only apply the text as written? What if the text does not speak to the exact situation? Should the court try to discern the intent of the framers of the Constitution and interpret from that intent to the present situation? Suppose the situation the court is trying to resolve does not lend itself to either of these methods of constitutional interpretations. Should the Supreme Court then resolve the situation based on the values explicit and/or implicit in the Constitution? Maybe the needs of society should be considered when interpreting the Constitution in its modern day setting. Should the judges create constitutional law on the basis of contemporary value judgments? One way of framing the issue of constitutional interpretations is to ask: Should constitutional law be viewed as law generating from the text of the Constitution or should it be viewed as the written document elaborated by various Supreme Court decisions? This article attempts to answer these questions focusing on the interpretation problem and interpretivists-originalists or value analysis, while defining and analyzing the Constitution.

Keywords: Constitution, interpretivists, originalists, value analysis

Suggested Citation

Daly, Joseph L., Interpreting the Constitution: Stability v. Needs (January 1, 1986). Capital University Law Review, Vol. 16, p. 203, 1986, Available at SSRN:

Joseph L. Daly (Contact Author)

Hamline University ( email )

1536 Hewitt Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55104-1237
United States
651 523 2121 (Phone)
651 523 2236 (Fax)


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