Judicial Interpretation of Arizona Constitution Adrift

Posted on November 01, 2006 | Type: Press Release
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Phoenix-Today the Goldwater Institute released a blueprint for constitutional jurisprudence for the Arizona Constitution. The Constitution is frequently interpreted inconsistently, as noted by two Arizona Supreme Court Justices. The report, "Defining the Fundamental Principles of the Arizona Constitution: A Blueprint for Constitutional Jurisprudence," by Benjamin Barr, Goldwater Institute constitutional policy analyst, is one of the only papers of its kind.

Article 2 of the Arizona Constitution states, "frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is essential to the security of individual rights and the perpetuity of free government." Mr. Barr argues that this "fundamental principles clause" was designed with one object in mind: to preserve individual liberty through constant referral to the doctrines of limited government.

Judges in Arizona often use federal interpretations of the U.S. Constitution to interpret the Arizona Constitution in a way that reinforces and solidifies government power. The fundamental principles clause, however, provides the judiciary with a firm basis for developing an authentic, original reading of the Arizona Constitution. It requires judges to interpret the state constitution in favor of individual rights, an absolute separation of powers, and a healthy respect for federalism.

Mr. Barr proposes four guidelines or "canons" of constitutional interpretation to establish a hierarchy of constitutional reasoning. They would also do away with presumptions in favor of modern-day legislation and would insist upon strict adherence to the unique protections offered under the Arizona Constitution.

"Incorporating the meaning of fundamental principles into canons of constitutional construction would provide renewed support for individual liberty, private property rights, the separation of powers, and federalism. A proper understanding of fundamental principles will afford citizens the liberties that are the hallmark of a free nation," says Mr. Barr.

Download Defining the Fundamental Principles of the Arizona Constitution here. Or to have a copy mailed to you, please contact Ann Seiden at (602) 462-5000 x 223 or aseiden@goldwaterinstitute.org.

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