Document Type


Publication Date



Supreme Court Justices frequently divide on questions of original meaning, and the divisions have a way of mapping what we might suspect are the Justices’ leanings about the merits of cases irrespective of originalist considerations. The same is true for law professors and other participants in constitutional discourse: people’s views of original constitutional meaning tend to align well with their (nonoriginalist) preferences for how present constitutional controversies should be resolved. To be sure, there are exceptions. Some people are better than others at suspending presentist considerations when examining historical materials, and some people are better than others at recognizing when a historical text taken on its own terms cannot support their own desired perspectives. But within American constitutional discourse, the prevailing tendency runs in the other direction. Despite the common claim that originalism constrains decisionmaking, people who disagree about constitutional issues tend to enact their disagreement in the realm of original meaning, as well as in the other realms of constitutional argument.