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. Murry,
    Brilliant. I even understood Bacon, wow.
    But the closing to current justices et al was also good. Good linkage.
    The others have disappeared to another haystack, thus the silence now.

    Just what do we have to abandon and go further from: the Big C.?

  2. On another, but related note, the entire notion of “orginalism” serves as nothing but a smokescreen for “traditionalism,” or what Umberto Eco calls the first of fourteen sure signs of Ur-Fascism — the denial of modernism, or The Advancement of Learning. The Elizabethan jurist, Sir Francis Bacon, had a lot to say on this subject in his great essay of the same title:

    .”And as for the overmuch credit that hath been given unto authors in sciences, in making them dictators, that their words should stand, and not counsellors to give advice; the damage is infinite that sciences have received thereby, as the principal cause that hath kept them low at a stay without growth or advancement. … whereof the reason is no other, but that in the [case of science] many wits and industries have contributed in one; and in the [case of “originalist” hermeneutics] many wits and industries have been spent about the wit of some one, whom many times they have rather depraved than illustrated. For as water will not ascend higher than the level of the first springhead from whence it descendeth, so knowledge derived from Aristotle, and exempted from liberty of examination, will not rise again higher than the knowledge of Aristotle. And therefore … disciples owe unto masters only a temporary belief and a suspension of their own judgment until they be fully instructed, and not an absolute resignation or perpetual captivity: and therefore, to conclude this point, I will say no more, but so let great authors have their due, as time, which is the author of authors, be not deprived of his due, which is, further and further to discover truth.”

    Justices Thomas and Scalia and their reactionary ilk seek to set themselves up as the sole interpreters of some “original” or “revealed” truth when, in fact, they fear the discovery of truth and seek nothing more than political power and advantage for themselves and their cronies. Bush v. Gore (2000) proved that beyond the power of any jaded judicial jive jargon to disguise or refute.

  3. Sorry for the missing words in paragraph two of my posting above. I meant to insert a parenthetical phrase and further explanatory text like ” — knowing this full well — simply ignored the Constitution’s carefully defined steps so as to reward …”

  4. As Professor Turley paraphrases Justice Thomas:

    ” … 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.”

    I don’t know how Justice Thomas — or any other “originalist” — can keep from choking on their own bullshit, knowing that the authors of America’s Constitution laid out the precise steps which must take place in the election of the President of the United States, and that — knowing thily defined steps so as to award “his election” (in Justice Scalia’s words) to their own favored candidate, George W. Bush. Even more incredibly, in so nakedly disregarding the “original intent” of the Founders, the Supreme Court then had the colossal effrontery to claim that their decision could set no legal precedent and that no future Supreme Court could avail themselves equally of this “one-time-only” case for the personal benefit of one-and-only-one man and his interests.

    Justice Thomas’s ruling in Bush v. Gore showed more clearly than anything any justice has ever done that the venal desire for political power trumps “original intent” any day of the week of any month of any year one might care to name. Justice Clarence Thomas cannot even read the simplest and most specific injunctions of our Constitution, let alone understand and properly apply their concepts to contemporary case law.

    Justice Thomas knows nothing of either legitimacy or impartiality, so one can dismiss his stated opinions on these matters as worthless.

  5. Good video clip.

    Factoid: Robert Vaughn, PhD, has an earned doctorate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. I have a copy of his doctoral dissertation. Well researched and well written. It is a study of the Joe McCarthy blacklisting of people in the entertainment industry: Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting

    From the description:

    A necessary book with a necessary goal – stressing the importance of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and citing the dangers of what happens when its cherished tradition is jeopardized. In the name of combating Communism liberties were jettisoned, while the art of stool pigeon information dissemination reached a feverish pitch during Hollywood’s blacklist period beginning shortly after World War Two with the advent of the Cold War.

  6. Mike S,
    Having seen so many “Hail Mikes”, I went back to see what I had missed.
    Thank you for the insight. Assuming as I do, that Scalie is not an exception, I have two thoughts:
    —–How many naked emperors do you see in a day running around blithely?
    —–Do people become after a time uncomfortable when your gaze rests on them and they learn of your powers of observation?

  7. Maybe you would like the American Constitution Society better, Mike. My daughter went that way and she is an officer at her law school.

  8. Mike,

    Don’t worry about the heretic thing. We don’t burn heretics at the stake around here. Our tortures are far more insidious.

    That’s right. We use Monty Python clips to punish the unbelievers. I see a comfy chair in your blasphemous future!

    Oh. Wait. No, no. The word I was looking for wasn’t “punish”. It was “entertain”.

  9. idealist707 1, March 9, 2012 at 11:55 am

    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?
    You can find a thousand cases that say the first order of business is to ask of the text, is there an ambiguity.

    If not, which means that, to a reasonable person, there is only one meaning to the text, thus no interpretation is necessary.

    Upon finding ambiguity, however, the tools kick in. Looking at it in context, looking at in in pari materia, looking at the congressional record, and the like are tools of legal hermeneutics.

    Original intent is a tool that takes into consideration the meanings of words and the state of the law at the time the constitution was written.

    Abuses of that tool would include thinking that the framers never wanted it to change, when the constitutional text itself it tells how to change it.

    Since Marbury v Madison in the early 1800’s it has been the province of the Supreme Court to “say what the constitution says”.

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