West Coast Hotel’s Place in American Constitutional History
G. Edward White
University of Virginia School of Law
October 1, 2012
122 Yale L.J. Online 69 (2012)
Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2012-64
For many years West Coast Hotel v. Parrish has been part of one of the central narratives of twentieth-century American constitutional history. In that narrative, West Coast Hotel represents the Supreme Court's abandonment of a constitutional jurisprudence featuring aggressive scrutiny of legislation that regulated economic activity or redistributed economic benefits. The abandonment came, according to the narrative, in response to the introduction of a plan by the Franklin Roosevelt administration to alter the membership of the Court.
This Essay seeks to show that the conventional narrative is misleading and distorts the significance of West Coast Hotel. It also seeks to show that West Coast Hotel's significance comes from its position in a different narrative, featuring clashing views on the issue of constitutional adaptivity: how general provisions of the Constitution are adapted to new controversies and whether the meaning of those provisions can be said to change in the process. In that narrative the interpretive postures of "originalism" and "living Constitution" jurisprudence make their appearance, serving to tie West Coast Hotel to contemporary debates about constitutional interpretation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16
Date posted: October 2, 2012