Bruce Ackerman - The Possibility of Interpretation (Griswold updated)

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-  Given the new role of the government in society, public schools gain a new status, as a legitimate instrument for the state to shape societal "choices", including those regarding the meaning of social segregation. Thus, according to Ackerman, "within the new activist order, the schoolchild's sense of racial inferiority has become a public responsibility, not a private choice". (p. 150). 



Griswold is portrayed as a representative of the modern prophetical approach of the Supreme Court

The Warren court can be seen to go against Brown, by recognizing a constitutional right to privacy, while Brown safeguarded an expansive role for the state in fighting racial discrimination. Ackerman argues Brown and Griswold are complementary not contradictory. In Griswold the Court attempts a synthesis of "the Founding's principle of individual freedom and the New Deal's affirmation of activist government." (p. 152). Ackerman's thesis: "Griswold is best understood as a critical stage in this process of Brown-like detachment from the abandoned premises of the middle republic." (p. 152).

Fundamental difference from Brown: there is no equivalent of Plessy in regards to birth control; the court had not approached this issue during the middle republic. The Connecticut statute could have still been repealed by the Supreme Court before the New Deal era. But it is likely that the arguments would have emphasized Lochner's affirmation of freedom of contract. In 1965, Griswold's lawyers argued for a distinction between matters of economic regulation and "rights of fundamental individual and personal character".

This is also the line followed by Justice Douglas in his opinion. While emphasizing the special role of marriage in society, Douglas rejects the interpretation of the Bill of Rights as a disjoint set of rules. Rather, he seeks to defend the Founding values that informed those rules. Ackerman argues this is a "brilliant interpretative proposal" (p. 159), because it allows for a meaningful way of preserving the Founding's affirmation of liberty in the context of the activist welfare state. (but isn't this a value judgment rather than a valid argument for constitutional interpretation?).

Ackerman argues the two dissenters in Griswold favor "almost plenary power" for the welfare state, in all areas of life. Thus, they solve the synthesis challenge presented by the New Deal in a completely different way from Douglas. The concurring opinions, on the other hand, avoid tackling the synthesis  dilemma seriously, and are limited to "more open-ended kinds of inquiry in which the Court roams broadly to elaborate the substance of constitutional value". (p. 157).