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strict construction
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strict construction
of the U.S. Constitution


They were strict constructionists and rigorous observers of the Law as found in the books of Moses; but they held the vast mass of Rabbinical addenda to those books in derisive contempt.
Lew Wallace  --  Ben Hur
  a philosophy of judicial interpretation that restricts judges in their inferences so that (in Robert Bork’s words) we do not move from a "rule of law to a rule of judges"
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strict constructionist strict interpretation strict constructionists strict construction strict constructionism
Strongly Associated with:   liberal construction
Notes:
Often called "strict interpretation." Justice Antonin Scalia expressed a desire for strict interpretation when he dissented from a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision in part with these words:

"What secret knowledge, one must wonder, is breathed into lawyers whey they become Justices of the Court, that enables them to discern that a practice which the text of the Constitution does not clearly proscribe, and which our people have regarded as constitutional fro 200 years, is in fact unconstitutional? ... Day by day, case by case, [the Court] is busy designing a Constitution for a country I do not recognize."

Strict constructionists think elected officials should change laws or the Constitution as needed and judges should limit themselves to enforcing the laws.  Also see "liberal constructionism" for a contrary viewpoint.
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Samples:
  • They were strict constructionists and rigorous observers of the Law as found in the books of Moses; but they held the vast mass of Rabbinical addenda to those books in derisive contempt.
    Lew Wallace  --  Ben Hur
  • But Atticus had once told us that in Judge Taylor’s court any lawyer who was a strict constructionist on evidence usually wound up receiving strict instructions from the bench.
    Harper Lee  --  To Kill a Mockingbird
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Associated words [difficulty]:   strict construction [9] , Bill of Rights [5] , due process [6]
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Most commonly used in these subjects:   Law, Public Policy & Politics
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