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Study Notes

Original Intent

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Original Intent is a theoretical approach that is taken by justices in cases surrounding the constitution and its interpretation.

Justices, will seek to look at the intentions of the Founding Fathers when writing the Constitution, to inform their rulings. This approach is often associated with justices that can be defined as strict constructionist.

However the practice of original intent in judicial rulings can be seen as problematic. Firstly there is the underlying assumption that the Founding Fathers had one idea and all agreed. History shows us that this isn’t the case, so the question remains as to which Founding Father’s intent you do you look at when making a decision.

Secondly the Constitution is deliberately vague, which raises the question as to how you would interpret the intent of the founders, if there is very little to inform that opinion

However, despite the criticisms and problems, the theory of Original Intent has remained popular with Justices, especially those on the conservative wing of the Supreme Court.

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