Are there any states where judges have broad powers to interpret the constitution to the point of even allowing them to exceed clear language and legislative intent ?

2 Answers 2


The United States would be one such country. I'm sure it is not the only one.

In the case of countries with constitutional courts there is basically no one to second guess their interpretations which is also true when the apex court in a country provides an opinion. Since no one can overrule many of these courts, they are allowed to do what they want.


Supreme Courts are generally granted the power to decide cases and issue orders (e.g. Canada's Supreme Court Act). But that power is not granted on the condition that the judges adhere to a particular legal theory guiding their decision-making.

Theories of judicial decision-making, such faithfulness to plain language, or attempts to ascertain legislative intent, are often not self-consciously deployed during their birth. The judges just decide. It is only after reflection on a series of cases, maybe by the judges themselves, maybe by external observers, that theories of decision-making become clearer and can be expressed as you have done so. See generally, Jeremy Kessler & David Pozen, "Working Themselves Impure: A Life Cycle Theory of Legal Theories", 83 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1819 (2016), particularly pages 1835–38.

At a less abstract level, not all constitutional law is based in written text or sourced in the legislature. Canada's Constitution, for example, contains unwritten unconstitutional principles: "[b]ehind the written word is an historical lineage stretching back through the ages." See Reference re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217 at paras. 49-54.

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