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Traditional constitutional theory posits a narrow conception of the issues that a litigant properly may assert. A litigant may invoke only his own constitutional rights or immunities; he may challenge a statute only in the terms in which it is applied to him; and, in the application process, courts have broad power to construe the relevant statutory language so as to avoid constitutional difficulties. The Yazoo case is perhaps the best known example of judicial adherence to these canons. There, a railroad claimed that a statute mandating speedy settlement of "all claims for lost or damaged freight" contravened the fourteenth amendment. The railroad urged that, whatever the evidence in the case at bar, the general language of the statute penalized even the failure to settle unjustifiable claims. Thus, the railroad contended, the statute brought within its terms constitutionally privileged conduct.


Constitutional Law | Law