Theory on framework issues

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

5.8 Constitutions are inherently meaningless

(Eighth in series: The interpretation of statutes and the denial of judges' powers.)

The present theory expounds a manner of Constitutional construction as a trend issuing from the Constitution's structural features and their central role in using the Constitution as a government blueprint. For the constitution to produce a workable government, it must cause, not recommend, obedience to its structural design and the goals normally served by these design features. This theory differs from the usual run of theories, such as Originalism and Interpretivism, in absence of mandate. The only thing to be said for relying on this structure-function theory of interpretation in performing interpretation is that it will help you pick the interpretation with some likelihood of being deemed right in the long-term. Arguments tend to gain force to the extent that they line up with the predictions the theory makes. Described is the only theory needed to solve the problem for a theory of interpretation, the interpretive enigma.

Not merely the only theory we need, it is as much of a theory as we can have. The constitutions of some jurisdictions, containing clauses instructing on the manner of interpreting the constitution, show why we can't have a deliberative theory. Express provisions often instruct to look first to the ordinary meaning of the terms and stop there in the absence of ambiguity. Interpreters of constitutions without explicit provision for their interpretation usually arrive at this conclusion, and it doesn't rescue them from interpretive conflict; this provision could increase interpretive-method differences because it causes an explicit focus on a particularly subtle meta-theoretic issue. Whether it increases or decreases the interpretive variance, it doesn't eliminate or trivialize it. Any written standard must be interpreted. It is fundamentally in a position no different from other constitutional provisions.

Sometimes theorists maintain that a method of interpretation is implicit in having a written constitution. Since the constitution enacts words for the general public obedience, these theorists say, having a written constitution implicitly means using a textualist method of interpretation, but a text can't adequately dictate methods to interpreters. A common rejoinder points out that the people enacted the text, not some associated meanings or not the intent behind the text, and so, if the Framers had wanted the country to look to their motives, they could have said so in the text. The rejoinder begs the question. Provisions were enacted; but to construe the voting ritual as an endorsement of the text may seem natural, yet it is logically arbitrary.

Why does it seem natural to interpret a provision as equivalent to its text? Not because in interpreting cultural products in general we impose these limits. When a drillmaster counts the march beat, the numbers or other sounds he uses are beside the point. To interpret is to assign meaning relative to current purposes channeled by habit; interpreting laws by the public meaning of their text is natural because of myriad legal habits. A constitution means nothing except in a culture prepared to receive it, and it means what it does only because of the manner of reception given by habits of thought.

If a culture prepared to interpret the constitution preconditions its playing an actual governing role, a constitution will produce workable government only to the extent that interpreters are impelled to choose an interpretation that reliably ensures sufficiently coherent development. The constitution's actual provisions must cause their "correct" interpretation by means other than direct mandate or implicit direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

About Me

Joshua Tree, California 92252-2141, United States
SUPPLIER OF LEGAL THEORIES. Attorneys' ghostwriter of legal briefs and motion papers, serving all U.S. jurisdictions. Former Appellate/Law & Motion Attorney at large Los Angeles law firm; J.D. (University of Denver); American Jurisprudence Award in Contract Law; Ph.D. (Psychology); B.A. (The Johns Hopkins University). E-MAIL: Phone: 760.974.9279 Some other legal-brief writers research thoroughly and analyze penetratingly, but I bring another two merits. The first is succinctness. I spurn the unreadable verbosity and stupefying impertinence of ordinary briefs to perform feats of concision and uphold strict relevance to the issues. The second is high polish, achieved by allotting more time to each project than competitors afford. Succinct style and polished language — manifested in my legal-writing blog, Disputed Issues — reverse the common limitations besetting brief writers: lack of skill for concision and lack of time for perfection.