Original Intent of the Federal Judiciary

And that is all she wrote for constitutional judiciary debate. During the 15th week, William Samuel Johnson suggested the judicial power should include “equity as well as law and moved to insert the words ‘both in law and equity’” which George Read objected, but were included. There was no further judicial discussion during week 15 or 16, and week 17 was the presentation of the final document.

What do the notes on the federal convention mean in my search to answer the dead letter v. living document and reasonable judicial interpretation questions?

The delegates spent significant time on development of an amendment process for the document. As I stated in an earlier post, this leads me to believe the delegates intended the Constitution to be read strictly and narrowly. If the government believed the law was not being interpreted accurately, the amendment process would address the issue. Based on this simplified premise, I tend to think they would view the document as more of a living document which would evolve or time, correcting inefficiencies as they were identified versus a dead letter in which changes were to be restrained.

As far as the purpose of the federal judiciary, Supreme Court, and judicial interpretation, the delegates expected the Court to follow strict construction of the Constitution. They envisioned the Court looking at the literal meaning of the words, considering “what the language they used meant at that time.” This is evidenced by several delegates purposed a Revisionary Council or process in which members of all three branches of government, including representation from the judiciary to enact “good law,” to reduce the need for challenges. This was contested on the premise that judges should not be statesman and should not be directly involved with policy or politics. Other delegates did not believe the Supreme Court even had the authority to overrule law.

One group makes law, one group executes the law, and one group judges the constitutionality. This is in stark contrast to government we have today.

I will now peruse the debates on the Constitution, reviewing the Federalist v. Anti-Federalist discourse to obtain an understanding on the original interpretation of the written Constitution.

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