The myth of 'originalism'

In “5 things to know about Supreme Court nominee Judge Kavanaugh” (July 10), Ann Marimow evokes the term “originalism” — an expression that conservative judges reflexively tout as fundamental to their approach to court rulings. However, claims of orginalism and its cousin textualism are self-delusions at best and spurious and disingenuous at worst; there’s simply no such thing. That is, no such assertions of purity of thought and absence of partisanship hold up. And attempts to channel the framers of our Constitution and the words of the many follow-on laws, no matter how nobly intended, are presumptuous.

The fact is that one’s social and political philosophy, forged over years, shapes conservative judges’ decision-making every bit as that of liberal judges, spurring constitutional interpretations and outcomes that are underpinned by that philosophy. Supreme Court jurists — including Brett Kavanaugh, should he become one — are no exception to interpretative activism, as attested to by how rulings have historically hewed to judges’ preexisting beliefs (right or left) on social and political matters. The potentially distracting myths of originalism and textualism should be shunted aside for the canards they are.

Keith Tidman, Bethesda

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