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Part IV Unique Interpretation Issues in State Constitutional Law, 12 Interpreting State Constitutions

From: The Law of American State Constitutions

Robert F. Williams

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved.date: 18 May 2021

This chapter discusses a wide variety of judicial interpretation techniques that state courts apply to state constitutions. Many of these techniques arise from the unique characteristics of state constitutions, including their origin, function, form, and quality, all of which are different from the federal Constitution. The chapter analyzes many of these differing approaches, including the question whether a state constitutional provision is self-executing; possible negative implications arising from grants of authority to the state legislature; interpretation based on the “voice of the people,” arising from the fact that state constitutional provisions are ratified by the electorate; the much wider availability of state constitutional history materials, some of it quite recent; and the possibility of a different view of the doctrine of precedent concerning judicial interpretations of state constitutions. The chapter discusses canons, maxims, and other approaches to state constitutional interpretation, such as contemporaneous construction.

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