Law & Order: Originalism

Legal conservatives are always whining about “originalism,” by which they mean “the law back when the Constitution was drafted,” but which really means “the description of law ca. 1787 that we pulled straight out of our tucheses and that coincidentally happens to support whatever rich and/or white people want the result to be in 2023.” For as-yet undisclosed but intensely law-nerdy reasons, I’m poking around in cases from that era and stumbled across evidence that those white guys in the constitution-drafting era really were much more sophisticated about the law:

The new trial had been pressed on five grounds:

1st. That the verdict was against the weight of evidence.

2d. That Herman Skiles, one of the jurors, some weeks before the trial, had betted a pint of wine with colonel James Mercer, that a verdict would go for the plaintiff, and thereby shewed his partiality.

3d. That five of the jurors eat or drank during the trial, at the expence of one of the lessors of the plaintiff.

4th. That two of the jurors declared their opinion in favour of the plaintiff before they heard the testimony.

5th. That Herman Skiles aforesaid, and two others of the jurors, threatened to throw three others of the jury, who dissented from them in opinion, out of the window of the second story of the Court House, where they were deliberating on their verdict, unless they would agree to find a verdict for the plaintiff.

Goodright v. McCausland, 1794 WL 615, at *1 (Pa. 1794). So, yeah, let’s take all our legal cues from that august system as it existed in the late 18th century.

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