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Originalism And The Law Of The Past, William Baude, Stephen E. Sachs Jan 2019

Originalism And The Law Of The Past, William Baude, Stephen E. Sachs

Faculty Scholarship

Originalism has long been criticized for its “law office history” and other historical sins. But a recent “positive turn” in originalist thought may help make peace between history and law. On this theory, originalism is best understood as a claim about our modern law — which borrows many of its rules, constitutional or otherwise, from the law of the past. Our law happens to be the Founders’ law, unless lawfully changed.

This theory has three important implications for the role of history in law. First, whether and how past law matters today is a question of current law, not of history ...


Grounding Originalism, William Baude, Stephen E. Sachs Jan 2019

Grounding Originalism, William Baude, Stephen E. Sachs

Faculty Scholarship

How should we interpret the Constitution? The “positive turn” in legal scholarship treats constitutional interpretation, like the interpretation of statutes or contracts, as governed by legal rules grounded in actual practice. In our legal system, that practice requires a certain form of originalism: our system’s official story is that we follow the law of the Founding, plus all lawful changes made since.

Or so we’ve argued. Yet this answer produces its own set of questions. How can practice solve our problems, when there are so many theories of law, each giving practice a different role? Why look to ...


The Original Theory Of Constitutionalism, David Singh Grewal, Jedediah Purdy Jan 2018

The Original Theory Of Constitutionalism, David Singh Grewal, Jedediah Purdy

Faculty Scholarship

The U.S. Constitution embodies a conception of democratic sovereignty that has been substantially forgotten and obscured in today’s commentary. Recovering this original idea of constitution-making shows that today’s originalism is, ironically, unfaithful to its origins in an idea of self-rule that prized both the initial ratification of fundamental law and the political community’s ongoing power to reaffirm or change it. This does not mean, however, that living constitutionalism better fits the original conception of democratic self-rule. Rather, because the Constitution itself makes amendment practically impossible, it all but shuts down the very form of democratic sovereignty ...


Originalism Without Text, Stephen E. Sachs Jan 2017

Originalism Without Text, Stephen E. Sachs

Faculty Scholarship

Originalism is not about the text. Though the theory is often treated as a way to read the Constitution’s words, that conventional view is misleading. A society can be recognizably originalist without any words to interpret: without a written constitution, written statutes, or any writing at all. If texts aren’t fundamental to originalism, then originalism isn’t fundamentally about texts. Avoiding that error helps us see what originalism generally is about: namely, our present constitutional law, and its dependence on a crucial moment in the past.


Originalism’S Bite, William Baude, Stephen E. Sachs Jan 2016

Originalism’S Bite, William Baude, Stephen E. Sachs

Faculty Scholarship

Is originalism toothless? Richard Posner seems to think so. He writes that repeated theorizing by "intelligent originalists," one of us happily included, has rendered the theory "incoherent" and capable of supporting almost any result. We appreciate the attention, but we fear we've been misunderstood. Our view is that originalism permits arguments from precedent, changed circumstances, or whatever you like, but only to the extent that they lawfully derive from the law of the founding. This kind of originalism, surprisingly common in American legal practice, is catholic in theory but exacting in application. It might look tame, but it has ...


Originalism As A Theory Of Legal Change, Stephen E. Sachs Jan 2015

Originalism As A Theory Of Legal Change, Stephen E. Sachs

Faculty Scholarship

Originalism is usually defended as a theory of interpretation. This Article presents a different view. Originalism ought to be defended, if at all, not based on normative goals or abstract philosophy, but as a positive theory of American legal practice, and particularly of our rules for legal change.

One basic assumption of legal systems is that the law, whatever it is, stays the same until it's lawfully changed. Originalism begins this process with an origin, a Founding. Whatever rules we had when the Constitution was adopted, we still have today -- unless something happened that was authorized to change them ...


Saving Originalism’S Soul, Stephen E. Sachs Jan 2014

Saving Originalism’S Soul, Stephen E. Sachs

Faculty Scholarship

No abstract provided.


Constitutional Borrowing And Nonborrowing, Lee Epstein, Jack Knight Jan 2003

Constitutional Borrowing And Nonborrowing, Lee Epstein, Jack Knight

Faculty Scholarship

No abstract provided.