Interpreting The United States Constitution And Determining What It Means For Americans

Interpreting The United States Constitution And Determining What It Means For Americans

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Interpreting the United States Constitution and determining what it means for Americans today can be quite a daunting task for the Supreme Court. Many times there can be significant disagreements as to how the Constitution should be interpreted. There are several different ways that can be used when interpreting. Two men who had very different views and methods in this regard were Justice William J. Brennan Jr. and Attorney General Edwin Meese.
William Brennan was considered “one of the Court’s most influential progressives” (383). He was convinced that the Constitution should be interpreted with the mindset that America today is different from the America that the founding fathers knew. Brennan says “to remain faithful to the content of the constitution, therefore, an approach to interpreting the text must account for the existence of these substantive value choices, and must accept the ambiguity inherent in the effort to apply them to modern circumstances” (387). He believes that looking at the context in which the Constitution was written and trying to adhere to what the founding fathers would have meant by it is essentially useless in today’s culture. James Madison said “the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation… be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a consistent and stable government, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers.” Brennan doesn’t agree. He puts it in this way, “we current Justices read the Constitution in the only way that we can: as Twentieth Century Americans” (387). What Brennan is saying is that though many believe that the Constitution should be taken in a literal way, he and other progressives believe that the literal meaning of the it no l...


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...ical community had not sufficiently recognized” (387). Since the land was going to be used to “revitalize the economically distressed community”, Brennan would say that the government did indeed have the Constitutional right to the property. Meese, on the other hand has a little more accurate idea of how the Constitution should be interpreted, and consequently would have a different view on this case. Again, the Fifth Amendment says that the government can take property for public use. Meese would interpret this to mean just what it says, public use. Since in the case of Kelo v. New London, the land was given to private owners, Meese would rightly disagree with the outcome.
In conclusion, Brennan and Meese had completely different ways of interpreting the Constitution. Brennan had more of a modern day interpretation, while Meese, for the most part, took it literally.

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