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The Living Constitution's Dead Hand
Those who study and think about the Constitution often ask: Why does a document written more than two hundred years ago continue to bind us today? A prominent answer has been that ours is a "living constitution"--one that adapts and changes over time. But does living constitutionalism as practiced by the Supreme Court really solve the problem of the dead hand of the past or might it, at times, risk accentuating that problem?
John F. Manning is the Dean of Harvard Law School. His writing focuses on statutory interpretation and structural constitutional law. Prior to entering teaching, Manning served as an assistant to the Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice (1991-94), and as an attorney-advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel (1986-88). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.