Justice Souter on plain language and complex meanings

Simple words do not have simple meanings.

Justice Souter’s address to the Harvard graduating class last week was an eloquent explanation of the debate between the strict constructionists (Scalia et. al.) and those that take a more nuanced view the Constitution (the “fair reading model” of constitutional interpretation).

Justice Souter discounted the originalists’ “simplistic view of the Constitution” and advocated for a more aspirational approach to Constitutional analysis.  An approach that recognizes and validates a society’s changing values. Without acknowledging a shift in values there is no way to reconcile the Brown decision with its predecessor Plessy. Society’s conception of equality had changed, so Plessy is overruled and replaced by Brown.

Read his remarks here.

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