Last modified on April 26, 2007, at 15:57


Part of the series on
U.S. Discrimination Law
Standards of Review

Rational basis review
Intermediate scrutiny
Strict scrutiny

Other Legal Theories

Substantive due process
State action doctrine

Defining Moments in Law

The 14th Amendment
Plessy v. Ferguson
Brown v. Board of Education
Loving v. Virginia
U.S. v. Virginia
Romer v. Evans
Lawrence v. Texas

Modalities of Constitutional Law


Responsive interpretation is the idea that, when interpreting the Constitution, judges should seek reference to the meaning of the document in light of society's current ethos or idea of morality. The idea has its background in McCulloch v. Maryland, a landmark early Supreme Court case where Justice Marshall stated, "let us remember that it is a Constitution that we are expounding," arguing that the Constitution must be ensured to stand the test of time.[1]

Sanford Levinson is a prominent responsive jurist and academician.[2]

Justice Brennan strongly advocated responsive interpretation of the Constitution to solve problems such as racism inherent in society, and remedy other social defects. As such, he is the paradigm "activist judge," in that he sought to expand the meaning of the Constitution to include society's current moral values, not just its original meaning.[3]


  1. McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316
  2. Sanford Levinson, Constitutional Faith.
  3. See, e.g., U.S. v. Weber, where Brennan argued for an expansive interpretation of Title VII based on its perceived societal need.