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Wisconsin Constitution – Construction: General

State v. Brian B. Burke, 2002 WI App 291, PFR filed 11/29/02
For Burke: Robert H. Friebert


¶4. First, as the trial court noted, we may not read our 1848 constitution using modern definitions and syntax. We are to examine:

(1) The [nineteenth century] plain meaning of the words in the context used;

(2) The historical analysis of the constitutional debates and of what practices were in existence in 1848, which the court may reasonably presume were also known to the framers of the 1848 constitution, and;

(3) The earliest interpretation of this section by the legislature as manifested in the first law passed following the adoption of the constitution.

State v. Beno, 116 Wis. 2d 122, 136-37, 341 N.W.2d 668 (1984) (citations omitted).

¶5. This case requires us to interpret language in the Wisconsin Constitution. We do so de novo. Thompson v. Craney, 199 Wis. 2d 674, 680, 546 N.W.2d 123 (1996).

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