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Articles 1 - 14 of 14

Full-Text Articles in Legal History

J. Skelly Wright And The Limits Of Liberalism, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2014

J. Skelly Wright And The Limits Of Liberalism, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

This essay, written for a symposium on the life and work of United States Court of Appeals Judge J. Skelly Wright, makes four points. First, Judge Wright was an important participant in the liberal legal tradition. The tradition sought to liberate law from arid formalism and to use it as a technique for progressive reform. However, legal liberals also believed that there were limits on what judges could do–-limits rooted in both its liberalism and its legalism. Second, Wright occupied a position on the left fringe of the liberal legal tradition, and he therefore devoted much of his career ...


Construction And Constraint: Discussion Of Living Originalism, Lawrence B. Solum Mar 2013

Construction And Constraint: Discussion Of Living Originalism, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Jack Balkin's Living Originalism raises many important questions about contemporary constitutional theory. Can and should liberals and progressives embrace originalism? Can the New Deal expansion of national legislative power be given originalist foundations? Is there a plausible originalist case for a right to reproductive autonomy and hence for the Court's decision in Roe v. Wade? Is the fact of theoretical disagreement among originalists evidence for the thesis that the originalist project is in disarray?


Communicative Content And Legal Content, Lawrence B. Solum Jan 2013

Communicative Content And Legal Content, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

This essay investigates a familiar set of questions about the relationship between legal texts (e.g., constitutions, statutes, opinions, orders, and contracts) and the content of the law (e.g., norms, rules, standards, doctrines, and mandates). Is the original meaning of the constitutional text binding on the Supreme Court when it develops doctrines of constitutional law? Should statutes be given their plain meaning or should judges devise statutory constructions that depart from the text to serve a purpose? What role should default rules play in the interpretation and construction of contracts? This essay makes two moves that can help lawyers ...


Originalism And The Unwritten Constitution, Lawrence B. Solum Jan 2013

Originalism And The Unwritten Constitution, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In his book, America’s Unwritten Constitution, Akhil Reed Amar contends that to properly engage the written Constitution, scholars and laymen alike must look to extratextual sources: among them America’s founding documents, institutional practices, and ethos, all of which constitute Amar’s “unwritten Constitution.” In this article, the author argues that contemporary originalist constitutional theory is consistent with reliance on extraconstitutional sources in certain circumstances. He establishes a framework for revaluating the use of extratextual sources. That framework categorizes extratextual sources and explains their relevance to constitutional interpretation (the meaning of the text) and constitutional construction (elaboration of constitutional ...


Originalism And Constitutional Construction, Lawrence B. Solum Jan 2013

Originalism And Constitutional Construction, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Constitutional interpretation is the activity that discovers the communicative content or linguistic meaning of the constitutional text. Constitutional construction is the activity that determines the legal effect given the text, including doctrines of constitutional law and decisions of constitutional cases or issues by judges and other officials. The interpretation-construction distinction, frequently invoked by contemporary constitutional theorists and rooted in American legal theory in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, marks the difference between these two activities.

This article advances two central claims about constitutional construction. First, constitutional construction is ubiquitous in constitutional practice. The central warrant for this claim is conceptual ...


Interpretation And Construction In Altering Rules, Gregory Klass Oct 2012

Interpretation And Construction In Altering Rules, Gregory Klass

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

This essay is a response to Ian Ayres's, "Regulating Opt-Out: An Economic Theory of Altering Rules," 121 Yale L.J. 2032 (2012). Ayres identifies an important question: How does the law decide when parties have opted-out of a contractual default? Unfortunately, his article tells only half of the story about such altering rules. Ayres cares about rules designed to instruct parties on how to get the terms that they want. By focusing on such rules he ignores altering rules designed instead to interpret the nonlegal meaning of the parties' acts or agreement. This limited vision is characteristic of economic ...


Confucian Virtue Jurisprudence, Linghao Wang, Lawrence B. Solum Jan 2012

Confucian Virtue Jurisprudence, Linghao Wang, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Virtue jurisprudence is an approach to legal theory that develops the implications of virtue ethics and virtue politics for the law. Recent work on virtue jurisprudence has emphasized a NeoAristotelian approach. This essay develops a virtue jurisprudence in the Confucian tradition. The title of this essay, “Confucian Virtue Jurisprudence,” reflects the central aim of our work, to build a contemporary theory of law that is both virtue-centered and that provides a contemporary reconstruction of the central ideas of the early Confucian intellectual tradition.

This essay provides a sketch of our contemporary version of Confucian virtue jurisprudence, including a view of ...


What Is Originalism? The Evolution Of Contemporary Originalist Theory, Lawrence B. Solum Jan 2011

What Is Originalism? The Evolution Of Contemporary Originalist Theory, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Debates over “originalism” have been a central focus of contemporary constitutional theory for three decades. One of the features of this debate has been disagreement about what “originalism” is. More worrisome is the possibility that the arguments between contemporary originalists and their opponents, the “living constitutionalists”, are confused–-with each side of the debate making erroneous assumptions about the content of their opponent’s theories.

The aim of this chapter is to clarify these debates by providing a history of contemporary originalism and then developing an account of the core or focal content of originalist theory. The history reveals that ...


The Interpretation-Construction Distinction, Lawrence B. Solum Jan 2010

The Interpretation-Construction Distinction, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The interpretation-construction distinction, which marks the difference between linguistic meaning and legal effect, is much discussed these days. I shall argue that the distinction is both real and fundamental – that it marks a deep difference in two different stages (or moments) in the way that legal and political actors process legal texts. My account of the distinction will not be precisely the same as some others, but I shall argue that it is the correct account and captures the essential insights of its rivals. This Essay aims to mark the distinction clearly!

The basic idea can be explained by distinguishing ...


After The Reasonable Man: Getting Over The Subjectivity Objectivity Question, Victoria Nourse Jan 2008

After The Reasonable Man: Getting Over The Subjectivity Objectivity Question, Victoria Nourse

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

This article challenges the conventional notion of the “reasonable man.” It argues that we make a category mistake when we adopt the metaphor of a human being as the starting point for analysis of the criminal law and instead offers an alternate approach based on heuristic theory, reconceiving the reasonable man as a heuristic that serves as the site for debate over majoritarian norms. The article posits that the debate over having a purely subjective standard and a purely objective standard obscures the commonsense necessity of having a hybrid standard, one which takes into account the characteristics of a particular ...


Constitutional Possibilities, Lawrence B. Solum Jan 2008

Constitutional Possibilities, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

What are our constitutional possibilities? The importance of this question is illustrated by the striking breadth of recent discussions, ranging from the interpretation of the United States Constitution as a guarantee of fundamental economic equality and proposals to restore the lost constitution to arguments for the virtual abandonment of structural provisions of the Constitution of 1789. Such proposals are conventionally understood as placing constitutional options on the table as real options for constitutional change. Normative constitutional theory asks the question whether these options are desirable--whether political actors (citizens, legislators, executives, or judges) should take action to bring about their plans ...


Originalism And The Natural Born Citizen Clause, Lawrence B. Solum Jan 2007

Originalism And The Natural Born Citizen Clause, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The enigmatic phrase "natural born citizen" poses a series of problems for contemporary originalism. New originalists, like Justice Scalia, focus on the public meaning of the constitutional text, but the notion of a "natural born citizen" was likely a term of art, derived from the idea of a "natural born subject" in English law--a category that most likely did not extend to persons, like John McCain, who were born outside sovereign territory. But the constitution speaks of "citizens" and not "subjects," introducing uncertainties and ambiguities that might (or might not) make McCain eligible for the presidency.

What was the original ...


Constitutional Texting, Lawrence B. Solum Jan 2006

Constitutional Texting, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

"Constitutional Texting" introduces an account of constitutional meaning that draws on Paul Grice's distinction between "speaker's meaning" and "sentence meaning." The constitutional equivalent of speaker's meaning is "framer's meaning," the meaning that the author of the constitutional text intended to convey in light of the author's beliefs about the reader's beliefs about the author's intentions. The constitutional equivalent of sentence meaning is "clause meaning," the meaning that an ordinary reader would attribute to the text at the time of utterance without any beliefs about particular intentions on the part of the author. Clause ...


Three Positivisms, Robin West Jan 1998

Three Positivisms, Robin West

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In this article, I accept and hope to expand upon the conventional consensus view that The Path of the Law is a brief for an Americanized version of Austinian legal positivism and for the "separation" of law and morality that is at its core. I also want to show, however, that the distinctive accomplishment of this Essay is its literary ambiguity: Both its explicit arguments for the positivist separation of law and morality, and the three enduring metaphors Holmes uses to make the case -- (1) the "bad man" from whose perspective we can clearly view the law; (2) the "prophecies ...