Graduation Year

Spring 2011

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Ralph A. Rossum

Rights Information

© 2011 Katherine Moran Ms.


The aim of this thesis is to explore the differences and similarities between Justice Antonin Scalia’s textualist approach to interpreting the Constitution and Justice Stephen Breyer’s Living Constitution approach (also called the evolutionist approach) by applying these disparate legal theories to Schwarzenegger v Entertainment Merchants Association, a case currently pending before the Supreme Court whose resolution centers on the interpretation of the First Amendment. The textualist approach relies primarily on interpreting the original meaning of the text of the Constitution, and attempting to decide cases in a way that is faithful to an amendment’s words as written (Rossum et al. 4). The Living Constitution, or evolutionist approach to constitutional interpretation, contends that the meaning of the Constitution evolves with the standards of society, and the purpose or intent behind the Constitution or an amendment is as important, if not more so, than the literal language when interpreting a Constitutional amendment as it applies to actual cases as they arise (8). These two approaches are fundamentally oppositional, and Justices Scalia and Breyer are the very embodiment of these approaches on the Supreme Court today; each man avidly defends his respective approach in his opinions and other written works, and each exhibits the logic of these approaches in his decisions. The purpose of choosing a case that is undecided (at the time of this writing) is to explore and flesh out the actual decision-making process of both Justices and their constitutional theories, rather than merely critiquing their decisions and holdings in a case that has already been adjudicated. This exploration is particularly useful because it allows one to decipher how these approaches are similar and different in interpreting the Constitution.