This issue of the Suffolk University Law Review acknowledges, and celebrates, the 230th anniversary of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. It is appropriate to do so.
Not so long ago, state constitutions were considered static documents, principally intended to structure the branches of state government and define their authority. Where the constitutions provided guarantees for basic citizens’ rights, the guarantees were considered to be limitations on the power of government. Many other rights afforded citizens in state constitutions were taken to be aspirational, subject to implementation as matter of policy by the executive and the legislature, but not as independent sources of duties that were enforceable against the executive and the legislature in the courts.
It was also thought that, when the United States Supreme Court established the federal rule on basic guarantees set forth in the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution, particularly in the areas of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, state supreme courts should adopt the federal rule under cognate provisions of their state constitutions. This analysis could be colloquially styled the “lock-step” school of interpretation. . . .