Edwin Meese's Influence Looms in Today's Judicial Wars

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It was July 1985 and the newly confirmed attorney general, Edwin Meese III, was preparing to address the American Bar Association. Trouble was, he was conflicted about what to say. A 17-day hostage crisis involving a hijacked American airliner had just ended, and Mr. Meese felt obliged to discuss terrorism. But the Supreme Court had just delivered a series of decisions that infuriated conservatives and reinforced President Ronald Reagan's resolve to steer the judiciary rightward. In the end, Mr. Meese gave what many say was the speech of his career. Helping lay the foundation for the judicial wars that continue today, he advocated a "jurisprudence of original intention." The philosophy he promoted, one of strict adherence to what proponents say were the intentions of the writers of the Constitution, inspired a generation of conservatives - including, some say, a young lawyer named John G. Roberts Jr., now a Supreme Court nominee.

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