Should judges be limited to interpreting what the Constitution and Federal laws say?
The American Constitution is a written document which was drawn up in 1776 and which contains several specific references to how judges should interpret certain issues. Although the document is dated, there are issues which to this day remain very relevant although others have obviously dated considerably as time has gone by. Legal parameters have also changed considerably so judges especially those in the Supreme Court should certainly not consider themselves bound by this Constitution.
The issue of abortion is a case in point and is a typical example where a revisionist stance has been successful. In the Roe versus Wade case of 1973, the Supreme Court judges ruled that denying an abortion was unconstitutional, something which has been fiercely opposed by the constructionists who would have wanted the judges to stick to the letter of the Constitution. However judges have every right to interpret certain laws as they see fit especially with regards to human rights.
In fact the Constitution is there to be observed but it should not be religiously followed to the letter. When hearing a case, a judge should always weigh the pros and cons and the Constitution should be used as a sort of reference point and not as the letter of the law in any case. A judge should always keep an open mind when faced with certain situations as these may also mean that the Constitution can be taken as being too severe on some issues and rather liberal on others.
Another seminal case where a judge should not stick to the Constitution or any Federal Law for that matter is a civil rights case, we have seen how these cases have included brave decisions by judges in hostile courtrooms. A typical case would be the murder of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964 where the judge had to hear the case on civil rights grounds to get a conviction instead of an actual murder. More often than not, juries who were sympathetic to the white supremacist regime would definitely not vote for a conviction and this would obviously put a liberal leaning judge in a quandary.
Obviously a federal judge is up to a point severely restricted when it comes to interpreting federal law as there cannot be much beating around the bush in this regard. However there are ways and means of circumventing any law in this respect as judges can be free with their interpretation of certain events and occurrences which demonstrate that the law has a wide field view of interpretation.
Naturally enough there have been judges who have been strict constructionists and have looked at the Constitution with an iron rod view while others have been very liberal and open minded on certain issues such as human and civil rights. Judges should have a free hand in handing out judgements and the Constitution should always be seen as a guide and not as strict rule of laws which cannot be deviated from.
A judge should be allowed a certain leeway to interpret both the Constitution as well as Federal Laws accordingly.
Adler, Mortimer; Gorman, William (1975). The American testament : for the Institute for Philosophical Research and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. New York: Praeger. ISBN 9780275340605.
Billias, George (2009). American constitutionalism heard round the world, 1776-1989 : a global perspective. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 9780814791073.
Bowen, Catherine (2010) [First published 1966]. Miracle at Philadelphia : the story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September, 1787. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316102612.