Constitutional Interpretation

Jeffrey Goldsworthy

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199578610
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Law

Constitutional Interpretation

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  • Comparative Law
  • Constitutional and Administrative Law


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The provisions of national constitutions, like other laws, are often ambiguous, vague, contradictory, insufficiently explicit, or even silent as to constitutional disputes that judges must decide. In addition, they sometimes seem inadequate to deal appropriately with developments that threaten principles the constitution was intended to safeguard, developments that its founders either failed or were unable to anticipate. How judges resolve these problems through ‘interpretation’ is problematic and controversial, mainly because legitimate interpretation is difficult to distinguish from illegitimate change. This article discusses the interpretive methodologies of the courts of six federations that were the subject of a recent comparative study and then provides some explanations of the differences between them. These are Australia, Canada, Germany, India, South Africa, and the United States.

Keywords: constitution; interpretation; courts; judges; Australia; Canada; Germany; India; South Africa; United States

Article.  16693 words. 

Subjects: Law ; Comparative Law ; Constitutional and Administrative Law

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