Strict construction is a form of judicial interpretation of a statute, The fundamental principle behind this construction is that the text of a provision in a statute should be applied as it is written ( see also: statutory construction ). Such a form of construction is the opposite of liberal construction, where the doctrine of reasonability and fairness is applied while interpreting to satisfy the overlying objective and intent of the statute.
What is meant by strict construction?
Strict Construction A close or narrow reading and interpretation of a statute or written document. Judges are often called upon to make a construction, or interpretation, of an unclear term in cases that involve a dispute over the term’s legal significance.
The common-law tradition has produced various precepts, maxims, and rules that guide judges in construing statutes or private written agreements such as contracts. Strict construction occurs when ambiguous language is given its exact and technical meaning, and no other equitable considerations or reasonable implications are made.
A judge may make a construction only if the language is ambiguous or unclear. If the language is plain and clear, a judge must apply the plain meaning of the language and cannot consider other evidence that would change the meaning. If, however, the judge finds that the words produce absurdity,, or a literalness never intended, the plain meaning does not apply and a construction may be made.
In, strict construction must be applied to criminal statutes. This means that a criminal statute may not be enlarged by implication or intent beyond the fair meaning of the language used or the meaning that is reasonably justified by its terms. Criminal statutes, therefore, will not be held to encompass offenses and individuals other than those clearly described and provided for in their language.
The strict construction of criminal statutes complements the rule of lenity, which holds that ambiguity in a criminal statute should be resolved in favor of the defendant. Strict construction is the opposite of liberal construction, which permits a term to be reasonably and fairly evaluated so as to implement the object and purpose of the document.
What is an example of strict constructionist?
Strict Constructionism is the judicial philosophy whereby the Constitution is interpreted in a literal or strict manner. When practicing strict constructionism, justices will take an issue and look for the original intent of the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.
What does a strict construction believe?
Text Preview Judicial review and construction are closely tied to the concepts of judicial activism and restraint. Judicial review gives the Court the power to determine whether acts of the government are constitutional. Judicial review is the Supreme Court’s primary tool in the system of checks and balances on which the American government is based.
- The power of judicial review makes the Supreme Court the final authority on the interpretation of the Constitution.
- According to Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v.
- Madison (1803), “It is emphatically, the province and duty of the judicial department, to say what the law is.” Throughout American history, the Supreme Court has overturned more than 150 acts of Congress, from Marbury v.
Madison (1803) to U.S.v. Morrison (2000), as well as more than 1,200 state laws. Most of the state laws the Court has declared unconstitutional have involved civil liberties incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment, and most have been overturned during the twentieth century.
- One recent example of the power of judicial review is the Bush v.
- Gore (2000) decision, when the Supreme Court determined the winner of a disputed presidential election.
- The concept of construction is concerned with exactly how the Constitution is interpreted.
- Loose construction is the belief that the Constitution is a dynamic, living document that must change as the nation develops.
Loose constructionists do not feel bound by the original intent of the Founding Fathers. They argue that the Founders were practical, pragmatic leaders who did not cast doctrine in concrete. Loose constructionists often defend this position by referring to the Federalist Papers.
- For example, they may cite Alexander Hamilton’s views from Federalist No.78: “The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts.
- A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law.
- It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body.” Loose constructionists would argue that the general welfare clause and the necessary and proper clause, both in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, require an interpretation that allows for changing social, national, and international needs.
The general welfare clause states that it is the government’s duty to “provide for the.general welfare of the United States.” The necessary and proper clause states that the government has the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States or in any Department of Officer thereof.” Loose constructionists are often accused of playing “free and easy” with established legal doctrine and tradition.
Strict construction is the belief that the Constitution is a static document that should be followed to the letter. Strict constructionists believe that the interpretation of the Constitution should be either based on the literal meaning of its words or adhere to the original intent of the Founders. They also consult the Federalist Papers as a way to understand the Founders’ intentions.
For example, they may also cite Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist No.81: “there is not a syllable in the plan under consideration, which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution, or which gives them any greater latitude in this respect than may be claimed by the courts of every State.” Hamilton goes on to state that “the Constitution ought to be the standard of construction for the laws, and,
wherever there is an evident opposition, the laws ought to give place to the Constitution.” Strict constructionists believe if the Constitution is followed in this way, the law will remain certain and predictable. Those opposed to strict construction counter that many phrases like “general welfare” are too vague to determine the Founder’s original intent or the Constitution’s literal meaning.
The critics of this method argue that issues the Founders could never have anticipated, such as technology and diversity, have changed the needs of the nation. It is important not to confuse views on construction and judicial activism with liberalism or conservatism.
- Although these terms have taken on very different meanings within the context of American politics, a strict definition of liberalism is the openness to change while conservatism is the desire to retain the status quo.
- Different Supreme Courts have been perceived as displaying a “personality” that is dependent upon how individual justices within the Court approach the issues of activism and construction, as well as their own political philosophies.
While individual members of a Court will have different views on these issues, a Court as a whole can exhibit liberal or conservative tendencies. For example, the Warren Court of the 1950s and 1960s had a liberal viewpoint, held a loose constructionist philosophy, and frequently exercised judicial activism.
During a period of controversy and change, Earl Warren led his Court in the areas of equal protection, freedom of expression, rights of the accused, and representation in government. From school desegregation, to Miranda warnings, the exclusionary rule, the right to counsel, and the doctrine of “one person, one vote,” the Warren Court was one of the most activist courts in American history.
A contrasting example is the New Deal Court of the 1930s, lead by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes. In the early years of the Hughes Court, the Court’s decisions actively protected the constitutional rights of individuals. Using the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, press, and assembly were upheld, denying state governments the ability to abridge them.
During President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, however, Hughes was instrumental in influencing the Court to reject important segments of the president’s New Deal program. The Court incurred the disapproval of the president and stopped his plan to “pack the court” with justices that would help him implement his policies.
However, Hughes then steered the Court in support of the president, thus, “the switch in time that saved nine.” The decisions that blocked necessary New Deal legislation branded the Hughes court as conservative and strict constructionists. Copyright 2006 The Regents of the University of California and Monterey Institute for Technology and Education : Text Preview
What does a strict constructionist do?
A strict constructionist is someone who believes that the text of the Constitution is not open to interpretation and that the words in the Constitution are literal. This philosophy is usually associated with the federal judiciary regarding cases that involve Constitutional matters.