Friday, August 27, 2004

Extrajudicial Interpretation 

Gary D. Rowe has an informative article, "Mayors, Judges and the Constitution," over at The Williams Project of the UCLA School of Law, in which he takes a look at the history of extrajudicial intepretation of the Constitution, often in the form of civil disobedience, as an important factor in the development of this vital document. Included in his discussion are the actions of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionists, Susan B. Anthony, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newson. From the article:
These Americans, not to mention their less well-known contemporaries, regularly turned to the public sphere to reject statutes and existing judicial interpretations that violated their considered but contested understandings of the Constitution. Assertions such as theirs are a vital aspect of American constitutionalism, at least as important as the work of judges. What is truly remarkable is that these activists did not reject the Constitution, but instead embraced it, again and again, in order to claim equal rights. This, not a demand for orderliness above all else, has been the Constitution's lifeblood, enabling it to endure.
Prof. Rowe teaches constitutional history and constitutional law at UCLA School of Law.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:58 AM