The Original Intent Debate Turns To James Madison . . . Jay-Z

As a law professor, I am often called into disputes over the original intent of the Framers — most recently in testimony over the recess appointment clause in the House Judiciary Committee. In the Florida House of Representatives, however, this dispute became particularly intense as Rep. Alan B. Williams and Speaker Dean Cannon disagreed on the specific words and intent behind that legal paragon Jay-Z:

Here is the exchange on an amendment to the Florida Evidence Code regarding allowing certain types of hearsay as evidence:

REP. ALAN B. WILLIAMS: I think one of the reasons why were supporting the amendment is because we got such a warm and fuzzy farewell from you to set the mood to support this amendment. To go even further, you think about a wise businessman. He even said he knows his rights. And Jay-Z…I think Jay-Z said it best and I’m going to quote for you. “I know my rights and you’re going to need a warrant for that.” And he even went further, “Aren’t you sharp as a tack, are you a lawyer or something?” Members, when you look at it, support this. If you support Jay-Z, support this amendment. Thank you.

SPEAKER DEAN CANNON: I must respectfully disagree with a correction, Rep. Williams. In the song, it was the officer who said, “Aren’t you sharp as a tack?” or something. “You should try for lawyer or something,” so I got you on that. It’s an unspoken rule, if you’re going to invoke Jay-Z, you must get the lyrics correct. I’m not sure Jay-Z would support this amendment.

It turns out that they were both incorrect in their quotation of Jay-Z:

(COP) Do you mind if I look round the car a little bit?

(JAY-Z) Well, my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk in the back,
And I know my rights so you gonna need a warrant for that. James Madison

(COP) Aren’t you sharp as a tack? You some type of lawyer or something,
Somebody important or something?

To paraphrase Justice Thomas in

Let me put it this way; there are really only two ways to interpret [Jay-Z] — try to discern as best we can what the [Jay-Z] intended or make it up. No matter how ingenious, imaginative or artfully put, unless interpretive methodologies are tied to the original intent of the [Jay-Z] , they have no more basis in the Constitution than the latest football scores. To be sure, even the most conscientious effort to adhere to the original intent of the [Jay-Z] is flawed, as all methodologies and human institutions are; but at least originalism has the advantage of being legitimate and, I might add, impartial.

Here is the original source for future historians and legislators:

Source: Free Beacon

32 thoughts on “The Original Intent Debate Turns To <del datetime="2012-03-09T11:43:44+00:00">James Madison</del> . . . Jay-Z”

  1. The “Original Intent” discussion has some framework to first consider. There is a group of judges and other persons who adhere to some conventional wisdom that: 1. There were Framers of the constitution (prior to the Bill of Rights; 2. Framers of the Bill of Rights as passed; 3. That the original intent (why not say intent at the time?) of these Framers is paramount; 4. That further discussion of the intent of subsequent Framers of Amendments to the Constitution after the Bill of Rights (Amdts 1-10) such as the 14th Amendment are irrelevant, not worthy of discussion or even on the table of discussion.
    If we are to look solely to the intent of the original Framers up through the passage of the first ten amendments we find that they intended that blacks be slaves.
    Notice that Justice Scalia never goes down the road of history and discusses the intent of the Framers of the 13th. 14th and 15th Amendments.
    Scalia is a Republican. He and others of this narrow minded ilk need to be reminded of the original intent of the Radical Republicans who drafted and passed the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Scalia is NOT of the party of
    Lincoln and sounds more like Orval Faubus.
    As to Justice Thomas. He could use a book on the Scottsboro Boys to show him why we have notions of a fair trial applicable to the states under the 14th Amendment. When he was a young lawyer working for John Danforth back in Jefferson City Missouri as an asssitant attorney general he sported a Confederate Flag on his wall as proof that he was “unreconstructed”.
    The question for todays class is what is reconstructed?

  2. Dredd,
    Having read ca 500 words, I’ll fire one back at you.
    While hermeneutics and legal ditto are defined as interpretation, where do the judges say that they regard legal hermeneutics as a guideline to interpretation? Futher, how did they get by up to 1992?
    Trivial questions, but it was fun posing them.
    Your conclusion re. “one bit with meaning of course leaves the other 99% drivel unexplored as being not of interest—–which I presume was your point.
    ?????

  3. As a guest blogger and regular commenter here I feel constrained to make a confession that may impeach my credibility ad eve have me banned for heresy. When it comes to discussions of original intent I mostly tune out and rely on the scholarship of JT, Gene, Mark and Bob to carry the day. While the intellectuality of the debate can be breathtakingly informative, I see it as missing the point. These debates usually involve someone from the Federalist Society citing Vatel as the source of the Constitution and being slapped down both historically, legally and philosophically by one of those four. After catching the gist of the arguments made, I usually skim the details.

    My view, not necessarily correct, is that most of these discussions omit the salient truth, that these are really issues of political power and the human psyche. Some call Scalia a scholar, even some detractors, but to me I see rather a man who is so enamored with his own beliefs, that he can justify the worst crap imaginable and frame it in what he deems to be legal terminology.
    In this respect such a person has little self insight and so can rationalize any sort of egregious personal act and still feel he has little to bring to the Confession Booth. Then again, I think Alexander the Great’s cutting the Gordian Knot, was the greatest Zen act of all time, so what do I know?

  4. idealist707 1, March 9, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I’m obviously off-topic, since I have a legal question.Not being a lawyer,
    on what “interpretation” does an “originalist” rest his dogma?
    You know, it’s all words and they are always subject to interpretation.
    So is is precedence (I interpreted first) or is it supernatural contact with James Madison today?
    ===============================
    It is legal hermeneutics.

  5. To me an originalist would demand fealty to the original intent of the framers. As an example the second amendment would only cover muzzle loaded muskets. Blacks would only count as 2/3rd of a person for the census. Those were, after all, what the founders intended.

  6. I’m obviously off-topic, since I have a legal question.Not being a lawyer,
    on what “interpretation” does an “originalist” rest his dogma?
    You know, it’s all words and they are always subject to interpretation.
    So is is precedence (I interpreted first) or is it supernatural contact with James Madison today?

  7. Frankly1, March 9, 2012 at 8:15 am
    ———————————————–
    the ‘best’ of exists side by side with the ‘worst’ of….that’s why women put up with men….. and why men often refer to them as ‘my better half’….

    men say that so it must be true

    🙂

  8. I moved to Florida 20 years ago and thought it was a toilet with palm trees. Then a few years ago I moved to Minnesota and discovered in my absence that the forces of ignorance and greed that made Florida such a horror show had spread even to Minnesota. Its hard not to make for of the ol palm lined cesspit but they are hardly alone in promoting the worst they have to offer

  9. “Florida is a crazy place and it is getting worse.”
    —————————————————————-

    I was going to say ‘oh yeah’….except that I hear from the snowbirds that it is the same everywhere now….and that Florida just set the standard….

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