The Supreme Court Justices of the United States sit on the highest court of the land. The justices have the ultimate say as to the meaning of the Constitution, and their role could aptly be summarized as interpreters of the Constitution. They decide what the words of the nation's founding document mean and therefore help to determine the rule of law for the social, political, and economic areas of society. To help them analyze the text of the Constitution and decide what it means and subsequently apply it to cases, justices use constitutional methodologies. Constitutional methodologies are algorithms or ways of thinking about provisions of the Constitution that guide a justice's reasoning and application of the Constitution to cases. These different structured methods of analysis seem to be fair and objective ways of interpreting the Constitution and deciding cases, yet this thesis argues the opposite.

The argument expounded in this thesis is that constitutional methodologies instead act as smoke screens, a sort of constitutional camouflage, that allow a justice to decide a constitutional question not according to some objective standard but rather by however they feel it should be decided according to their beliefs and values. These methodologies use their theories, arguments, and philosophies to legitimize interpreting the Constitution a certain way, but this thesis shows that they inevitably lead a justice down a camouflaged path towards a single subjective decision. Multiple justices using the same constitutional methodology to analyze the same constitutional issue could come to different conclusions based on the values they hold and how they utilize the methodology. This subjective decision hides behind the structured methods of analysis purported by constitutional methodologies, and ultimately makes them more akin to smoke screens rather than objective mechanisms for interpreting and applying the Constitution.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Merriam, Eric


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Community Innovation and Education


Legal Studies



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date


Included in

Legal Studies Commons