‘We Are All Originalists’

Democrats Always Attempt To Misleadingly Characterize Originalism, But It Is So Mainstream In The Legal Community That Even Justices Kagan And Ginsburg Referred To Themselves As Originalists


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman: “You said you are an orginialist, is that true? What does that mean in English?...”
JUDGE AMY CONEY BARRETT: “In English. Ok, so in English that means that I interpret the Constitution as a law. That I interpret its text as text. And I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn’t change over time and it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.” (U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, 10/13/2020)


JUSTICE KAGAN: ‘We Are All Originalists’

JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN: “[T]he Framers were incredibly wise men, and if we always remember that, we will do pretty well, because part of their wisdom was that they wrote a Constitution for the ages. And this was very much in their mind. This was part of their consciousness. You know, even that phrase that I quoted yesterday from the Preamble of the Constitution, I said the Constitution was ‘to secure blessings of liberty.’ I did not quote the next part of that phrase. It said ‘blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity.’ So they were looking toward the future. They were looking generations and generations and generations ahead and knowing that they were writing a Constitution for all that period of time, and that circumstances and that the world would change, just as it had changed in their own lives very dramatically. So they knew all about change…. And I think that they laid down—sometimes they laid down very specific rules. Sometimes they laid down broad principles. Either way we apply what they say, what they meant to do. So in that sense, we are all originalists.” (U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, p.62, 6/29/2020)

JUSTICE GINSBURG: ‘I Count Myself As An Originalist Too’

JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG: “I have a different originalist view. I count myself as an originalist too, but in a quite different way from the professor [Rutgers University Law School’s Earl Maltz]…. Equality was the motivating idea, it was what the Declaration of Independence started with but it couldn’t come into the original Constitution because of the odious practice of slavery that was retained… I think the genius of the United States has been from the original Constitution where ‘we the people’ were white property-owning men to what it has become today.” (“Justice Ginsburg Speaks About Gender Equality,” ABC News, 11/18/2011)



Related Issues: Judicial Nominations, Supreme Court