Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings yesterday sounded like an advanced jurisprudence seminar as Thomas was questioned about the "natural law" method of constitutional interpretation.
Thomas has gained national attention in legal circles for invoking ''natural law" or "higher law" as a key principle in the Constitution.
Natural law is a fuzzy and malleable concept that has been endorsed by liberals as well as conservatives.
In contrast to the strict constructionist view that the Constitution must be interpreted by sticking closely to its text, proponents of natural law hold that the Constitution also protects rights that are not specifically enumerated, or set out, in the words of the document. Though the notion that people had "natural rights" was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was rejected by most legal scholars and judges in the 20th century because it could be easily abused.