Maine Constitution

Musings on the Maine Constitution’s Bicentennial, Coronavirus Edition

The coronavirus shut-down has been anything but a slow-down for this attorney-blogger, but it hasn’t entirely prevented me from continuing to muse about the Maine Constitution during its now-cancelled bicentennial celebration. So I thought I would give the Constitution a little more of the attention it is due, despite the coronavirus. (A welcome respite to think about something else, no?)

When I last blogged about the Maine Constitution, just before its 200th birthday, I asked whether it still matters. The Law Court seems to think the answer is “yes”: under its primacy doctrine, the Law Court has said the state constitution should be given force and meaning independent of the U.S. Constitution. The Law Court has also offered a few reasons for this primacy doctrine, and they are worth pondering.

The Law Court offered one reason in State v. Larrivee, where it observed that the Maine Constitution is the “primary protector of the fundamental liberties of Maine

The Maine Constitution Turns 200! Does It Still Matter?

On March 15, 2020, Maine turns 200 years old. For any Mainer, especially history buffs, the bicentennial is an occasion worth celebrating. For any legal beagle, the bicentennial is worth celebrating for an additional reason: Maine’s Constitution is also celebrating its 200th birthday.

The Maine Constitution was adopted at convention on October 29, 1819, approved by the people on December 6, 1819, and became effective on the same date Maine became a state. The Maine Constitution has proven to be one of the nation’s most durable state charters. By my research, only three operative state constitutions are older: those of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. But does the Maine Constitution still matter?

A recent Law Court decision highlights this question. In State of Maine v. Weddle, the Law Court was presented with an interesting search-and-seizure question relating to a Maine statute authorizing law enforcement officers to test the blood of all drivers involved in a fatal, or likely fatal,