Earlier this year, I asked a question on this blog: does the Maine Constitution, now in its 200th year, still matter? Shortly after, I offered a few reasons why it should still matter, including the Maine Constitution’s unique history, the nature of the state-federal relationship, and the doctrine of constitutional avoidance. In the early 1980s, these considerations led the Law Court to adopt the “primacy approach” to constitutional interpretation, which, simply stated, means that courts give the state constitution independent force and meaning rather than simply interpret it in lockstep with the federal constitution. In the following decades, the Law Court has not always consistently applied this approach. In a notable pair of recent opinions, however, the Law Court expressly reaffirmed it, giving a clear answer to the question I raised: yes, the Maine Constitution does still matter.
Though it had lain largely dormant for many years, the primacy approach returned to the forefront in June with a notable concurrence by