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Full-Text Articles in Law

Constitutional Interpretation And Zombie Provisions, Michael L. Smith May 2024

Constitutional Interpretation And Zombie Provisions, Michael L. Smith

Georgia State University Law Review

This Article analyzes the presence of zombie provisions in the United States Constitution and state constitutions and the danger that these provisions may influence the interpretation of still-living constitutional provisions.


Federal Indian Law As Method, Matthew L. M. Fletcher Mar 2024

Federal Indian Law As Method, Matthew L. M. Fletcher

Articles

Morton v. Mancari is well-known in Indian law circles as a foundation for the tribal self-determination era, which is generally understood to have begun in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The case involved an Act of Congress that required the federal “Indian Office” (now called the Bureau of Indian Affairs) to grant preference in employment to “Indians.” The case is typically understood as the basis for analyzing how federal statutes that apply exclusively to Indian people do not implicate the anti-discrimination principles of the United States Constitution. This understanding of the case, while correct, is too narrow.


When Originalism Failed: Lessons From Tort Law, Donald G. Gifford, Richard C. Boldt, Christopher J. Robinette Jan 2024

When Originalism Failed: Lessons From Tort Law, Donald G. Gifford, Richard C. Boldt, Christopher J. Robinette

Faculty Scholarship

Two recent Supreme Court decisions upended American life. Opinions released on consecutive days in June 2022 overturned the right of reproductive choice nationwide and invalidated a statute regulating the carrying of concealed weapons in New York. The opinions were united by a common methodology. Pursuant to what one scholar terms “thick” originalism, history, as told by the majority, dictated the resolution of constitutional disputes.

This Article explores the use of thick originalism in several celebrated torts cases that raised constitutional issues. These cases illustrate two significant kinds of problems associated with a rigid historical approach to constitutional interpretation. The first …


Serving Only To Oppress: An Intersectional And Critical Race Analysis Of Constitutional Originalism Inflicting Harm, Ethan Dawson Jul 2023

Serving Only To Oppress: An Intersectional And Critical Race Analysis Of Constitutional Originalism Inflicting Harm, Ethan Dawson

Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality

“[T]imes can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress.” - Justice Anthony Kennedy, Lawrence v. Texas (2003)

This Note will first focus on a historical analysis of originalist constitutional interpretation, drawing attention to initial disparities in the Constitution incompatible with our current social context. It will discuss modern originalism as a method of perpetuating systemic shortcomings, drawing specific attention to originalist interpretation as a method of oppression against white women and people of color, specifically Black women. In analyzing the harm originalism does to …


Against Political Theory In Constitutional Interpretation, Christopher S. Havasy, Joshua C. Macey, Brian Richardson Apr 2023

Against Political Theory In Constitutional Interpretation, Christopher S. Havasy, Joshua C. Macey, Brian Richardson

Vanderbilt Law Review

Judges and academics have long relied on the work of a small number of Enlightenment political theorists-—particularly Locke, Montesquieu, and Blackstone—-to discern meaning from vague and ambiguous constitutional provisions. This Essay cautions that Enlightenment political theory should rarely, if ever, be cited as an authoritative source of constitutional meaning. There are three principal problems with constitutional interpretation based on eighteenth-century political theory. First, Enlightenment thinkers developed distinct and incompatible theories about how to structure a republican form of government. That makes it difficult to decide which among the conflicting theories should possess constitutional significance. Second, the Framers did not write …


No Balancing For Anticonstitutional Government Conduct, Bruce Ledewitz Jan 2023

No Balancing For Anticonstitutional Government Conduct, Bruce Ledewitz

Law Faculty Publications

Noted Supreme Court critic Eric Segall has been criticizing the majority opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n v. Bruen for its failure to engage in any kind of means-end balancing in striking down a New York gun control measure--balancing that he argues the Court has engaged in since the Reconstruction era. Segall is hardly the only American law professor to level this charge. But the lack of balancing in Bruen is neither unprecedented nor methodologically innovative. It certainly does not reflect a victory of originalism. Instead, the Bruen decision stands firmly in the tradition that courts do …


Ordered Liberty After Dobbs, Linda C. Mcclain, James E. Fleming Jan 2023

Ordered Liberty After Dobbs, Linda C. Mcclain, James E. Fleming

Faculty Scholarship

This Essay explores the implications of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization for the future of substantive due process (SDP) liberties protecting personal autonomy, bodily integrity, familial relationships (including marriage), sexuality, and reproduction. We situate Dobbs in the context of prior battles on the Supreme Court over the proper interpretive approach to deciding what basic liberties the Due Process Clause (DPC) protects. As a framing device, we refer to two competing approaches as “the party of [Justice] Harlan or Casey” versus “the party of Glucksberg.” In Dobbs, the dissent co-authored by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan represents the party of …


The Anti-Innovation Supreme Court: Major Questions, Delegation, Chevron And More, Jack M. Beermann Jan 2023

The Anti-Innovation Supreme Court: Major Questions, Delegation, Chevron And More, Jack M. Beermann

Faculty Scholarship

The Supreme Court of the United States has generally been a very aggressive enforcer of legal limitations on governmental power. In various periods in its history, the Court has gone far beyond enforcing clearly expressed and easily ascertainable constitutional and statutory provisions and has suppressed innovation by the other branches that do not necessarily transgress widely held social norms. Novel assertions of legislative power, novel interpretations of federal statutes, statutes that are in tension with well-established common law rules and state laws adopted by only a few states are suspect simply because they are novel or rub up against tradition. …


The Constitutional Law Of Interpretation, Anthony J. Bellia Jr., Bradford R. Clark Dec 2022

The Constitutional Law Of Interpretation, Anthony J. Bellia Jr., Bradford R. Clark

Notre Dame Law Review

The current debate over constitutional interpretation often proceeds on the assumption that the Constitution does not provide rules for its own interpretation. Accordingly, several scholars have attempted to identify applicable rules by consulting external sources that governed analogous legal texts (such as statutes, treaties, contracts, etc.). The distinctive function of the Constitution—often forgotten or overlooked—renders these analogies largely unnecessary. The Constitution was an instrument used by the people of the several States to transfer a fixed set of sovereign rights and powers from one group of sovereigns (the States) to another sovereign (the federal government), while maintaining the “States” as …


The Romantic Author As Compelled Speaker, Sonya G. Bonneau Nov 2022

The Romantic Author As Compelled Speaker, Sonya G. Bonneau

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The romantic author trope has been extensively criticized in the copyright context, yet it threatens to emerge as a new pillar of First Amendment compelled speech jurisprudence. Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission exemplifies the trope’s rhetorical power, and the costs of that approach. Casting the baker as an artist, Justice Thomas finds that creating custom wedding cakes was speech, and that applying a public accommodations law to require service to a same-sex couple triggered strict scrutiny review. This is an extraordinary result. Although the Court never adjudicated the compelled speech claim, it will …


Taking Care With Text: "The Laws" Of The Take Care Clause Do Not Include The Constitution, And There Is No Autonomous Presidential Power Of Constitutional Interpretation, George Mader Oct 2022

Taking Care With Text: "The Laws" Of The Take Care Clause Do Not Include The Constitution, And There Is No Autonomous Presidential Power Of Constitutional Interpretation, George Mader

Faculty Scholarship

“Departmentalism” posits that each branch of the federal government has an independent power of constitutional interpretation—all branches share the power and need not defer to one another in the exercise of their interpretive powers. As regards the Executive Branch, the textual basis for this interpretive autonomy is that the Take Care Clause requires the President to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” and the Supremacy Clause includes the Constitution in “the supreme Law of the Land.” Therefore, the President is to execute the Constitution as a law. Or so the common argument goes. The presidential oath to “execute …


Holmes V. Walton And Its Enduring Lessons For Originalism, Justin W. Aimonetti Sep 2022

Holmes V. Walton And Its Enduring Lessons For Originalism, Justin W. Aimonetti

Marquette Law Review

Originalism is nothing new. And the New Jersey Supreme Court’s 1780 decision in Holmes v. Walton shows it. In that case, the New Jersey Supreme Court disallowed a state law as repugnant to the state constitution because the law permitted a jury of only six to render a judgment. To reach that result, the court looked to the fixed, original meaning of the jury trial guarantee embedded in the state constitution, and it then constrained its interpretive latitude in conformity with that fixed meaning. Holmes thus cuts against the common misconception that originalism as an interpretive methodology is a modern …


The Immorality Of Originalism, Jack M. Beermann Jan 2022

The Immorality Of Originalism, Jack M. Beermann

Faculty Scholarship

The central claim of this essay is that in interpreting the U.S. Constitution, it is immoral to choose original intent over social welfare, broadly conceived. Once this argument is laid out and defended on its own terms, I support the central claim with a variety of arguments, including the defective process pursuant to which the Constitution was enacted, the deeply flawed substantive content of the Constitution, the incongruity of fidelity to the views of a generation of revolutionaries, the current virtual imperviousness of the Constitution to amendment, the failure of the Constitution to resolve fundamental questions concerning the allocation of …


Originalism's Implementation Problem, Michael L. Smith, Alexander S. Hiland Jan 2022

Originalism's Implementation Problem, Michael L. Smith, Alexander S. Hiland

Faculty Articles

Originalism has received a great deal of recent, mainstream attention. President Donald Trump's nomination of three justices to the Supreme Court amplified discussions of their judicial philosophies during and following their confirmation proceedings. Supporters of these nominations highlighted the nominees' originalist credentials, arguing that originalism was the dominant approach to constitutional interpretation.

In the academic sphere, volumes of articles and books set forth originalist theories and methodology. Its academic proponents also refer to it as the dominant form of constitutional interpretation—often asserting that opponents of originalism have failed to enunciate a coherent alternative theory. Some argue that originalism (at least, …


Is A Science Of Comparative Constitutionalism Possible?, Madhav Khosla Jan 2022

Is A Science Of Comparative Constitutionalism Possible?, Madhav Khosla

Faculty Scholarship

Nearly a generation ago, Justice Scalia and Justice Breyer debated the legitimacy and value of using foreign law to interpret the American Constitution. At the time, the matter was controversial and invited the interest of both judges and scholars. Foreign law had, after all, been relied on in significant cases like Roper v. Simmons and Lawrence v. Texas. Many years on, there is still much to be debated — including the purpose and potential benefits of judicial engagement with foreign law — but “comparative constitutional law” has unquestionably emerged as a field of study in its own right. We …


Media Paratext And Constitutional Interpretation, Benjamin J. Priester Dec 2021

Media Paratext And Constitutional Interpretation, Benjamin J. Priester

Faculty Articles

In the fields of media studies and fan studies, the concept of paratext is an analytical paradigm for understanding how audiences consume and interpret media texts, such as a novel or movie. Amid today's media-rich society, it is all but impossible to encounter a media text in isolation. Rather, we also invariably interact with a wide variety of associated paratexts, from official materials like trailers or marketing to unofficial materials like reviews or fan reactions, which play a role in shaping our interpretation of the core media text. This concept of media paratext provides a compelling analogy for constitutional interpretation. …


Anti-Modalities, David E. Pozen, Adam M. Samaha Feb 2021

Anti-Modalities, David E. Pozen, Adam M. Samaha

Michigan Law Review

Constitutional argument runs on the rails of “modalities.” These are the accepted categories of reasoning used to make claims about the content of supreme law. Some of the modalities, such as ethical and prudential arguments, seem strikingly open ended at first sight. Their contours come into clearer view, however, when we attend to the kinds of claims that are not made by constitutional interpreters—the analytical and rhetorical moves that are familiar in debates over public policy and political morality but are considered out of bounds in debates over constitutional meaning. In this Article, we seek to identify the “anti-modalities” of …


Constitutional Structure, Institutional Relationships And Text: Revisiting Charles Black's White Lectures, Richard C. Boldt Jan 2021

Constitutional Structure, Institutional Relationships And Text: Revisiting Charles Black's White Lectures, Richard C. Boldt

Faculty Scholarship

Fundamental questions about constitutional interpretation and meaning invite a close examination of the complicated origins and the subsequent elaboration of the very structure of federalism. The available records of the Proceedings in the Federal Convention make clear that the Framers entertained two approaches to delineating the powers of the central government relative to those retained by the states. The competing approaches, one reliant on a formalist enumeration of permissible powers, the other operating functionally on the basis of a broad dynamic concept of state incompetence and national interest, often are presented as mutually inconsistent narratives. In fact, these two approaches …


The People's Court: On The Intellectual Origins Of American Judicial Power, Ian C. Bartrum Jan 2021

The People's Court: On The Intellectual Origins Of American Judicial Power, Ian C. Bartrum

Dickinson Law Review (2017-Present)

This article enters into the modern debate between “consti- tutional departmentalists”—who contend that the executive and legislative branches share constitutional interpretive authority with the courts—and what are sometimes called “judicial supremacists.” After exploring the relevant history of political ideas, I join the modern minority of voices in the latter camp.

This is an intellectual history of two evolving political ideas—popular sovereignty and the separation of powers—which merged in the making of American judicial power, and I argue we can only understand the structural function of judicial review by bringing these ideas together into an integrated whole. Or, put another way, …


Democracy, Distrust, And Presidential Immunities, Evan H. Caminker Jan 2021

Democracy, Distrust, And Presidential Immunities, Evan H. Caminker

Articles

This Essay sketches how Ely's representation-reinforcement theory of judicial interpretation might frame presidential immunity doctrines and compares that frame to the Court's current approach. To what extent might various forms of presidential immunity, or exceptions thereto, be grounded in principles of democratic accountability rather than presidential efficacy? I conclude that a plausibly constructed Elyan paradigm provides an argument for immunity in many settings but also for exceptions to that immunity in narrow but important circumstances. More specifically: immunity can protect the President's ability to focus on serving her view of the national interest, without being unduly chilled or sidetracked by …


The Executive Branch Anticanon, Deborah Pearlstein Nov 2020

The Executive Branch Anticanon, Deborah Pearlstein

Articles

Donald Trump’s presidency has given rise to a raft of concerns not just about the wisdom of particular policy decisions but also about the prospect that executive actions might have troubling longer term “precedential” effects. While critics tend to leave undefined what “precedent” in this context means, existing constitutional structures provide multiple mechanisms by which presidential practice can influence future executive branch conduct: judicial actors rely on practice as gloss on constitutional meaning, executive branch officials rely on past practice in guiding institutional norms of behavior, and elected officials outside the executive branch and the people themselves draw on past …


Herein Of 'Herein Granted': Why Article I'S Vesting Clause Does Not Support The Doctrine Of Enumerated Powers, Richard A. Primus Sep 2020

Herein Of 'Herein Granted': Why Article I'S Vesting Clause Does Not Support The Doctrine Of Enumerated Powers, Richard A. Primus

Articles

Article I of the United States Constitution begins as follows: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States[.]” That text is sometimes called the Vesting Clause, or, more precisely, the Article I Vesting Clause, because Articles II and III also begin with Vesting Clauses. And there is a feature of those three clauses, when compared, to which twenty-first century constitutional lawyers commonly attribute considerable significance. Although the three Clauses are similar in other ways, the syntax of Article I’s Vesting Clause is not fully parallel to that of the other two. The Vesting …


Thin And Thick Conceptions Of The Nineteenth Amendment Right To Vote And Congress's Power To Enforce It, Richard L. Hasen, Leah M. Litman Jul 2020

Thin And Thick Conceptions Of The Nineteenth Amendment Right To Vote And Congress's Power To Enforce It, Richard L. Hasen, Leah M. Litman

Articles

This Article, prepared for a Georgetown Law Journal symposium on the Nineteenth Amendment’s one-hundred-year anniversary, explores and defends a “thick” conception of the Nineteenth Amendment right to vote and Congress’s power to enforce it. A “thin” conception of the Nineteenth Amendment maintains that the Amendment merely prohibits states from enacting laws that prohibit women from voting once the state decides to hold an election. And a “thin” conception of Congress’s power to enforce the Nineteenth Amendment maintains that Congress may only supply remedies for official acts that violate the Amendment’s substantive guarantees. This Article argues the Nineteenth Amendment does more. …


Resolving Alj Removal Protections Problem Following Lucia, Spencer Davenport May 2020

Resolving Alj Removal Protections Problem Following Lucia, Spencer Davenport

University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform

When the Supreme Court decided Lucia v. SEC and held that administrative law judges (ALJs) are Officers under the Constitution, the Court opened a flood of constitutional issues around the status of ALJs and related government positions. One central issue relates to ALJs’ removal protections. ALJs currently have two layers of protection between them and the President. In an earlier Supreme Court decision, the Court held that two layers of tenure protection between an “Officer of the United States” and the President was unconstitutional as it deprived the President the power to hold his officers accountable. As impartial adjudicators, ALJs …


Coin, Currency, And Constitution: Reconsidering The National Bank Precedent, David S. Schwartz May 2020

Coin, Currency, And Constitution: Reconsidering The National Bank Precedent, David S. Schwartz

Michigan Law Review

Review of Eric Lomazoff's Reconstructing the National Bank Controversy: Politics and Law in the Early American Republic.


Translating The Constitution, Jack M. Balkin May 2020

Translating The Constitution, Jack M. Balkin

Michigan Law Review

Review of Lawrence Lessig's Fidelity and Constraint: How the Supreme Court Has Read the American Constitution.


Fixing America's Founding, Maeve Glass May 2020

Fixing America's Founding, Maeve Glass

Michigan Law Review

Review of Jonathan Gienapp's The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era.


Segregation In The Galleries: A Reconsideration, Richard Primus Feb 2020

Segregation In The Galleries: A Reconsideration, Richard Primus

Michigan Law Review Online

When constitutional lawyers talk about the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment as applied to questions of race, they often men-tion that the spectators’ galleries in Congress were racially segregated when Congress debated the Amendment.1 If the Thirty-Ninth Congress practiced racial segregation, the thinking goes, then it probably did not mean to prohibit racial segregation.2 As an argument about constitutional interpretation, this line of thinking has both strengths and weaknesses. But this brief Essay is not about the interpretive consequences, if any, of segregation in the congressional galleries during the 1860s. It is about the factual claim that the galleries …


The Traditions Of American Constitutional Law, Marc O. Degirolami Jan 2020

The Traditions Of American Constitutional Law, Marc O. Degirolami

Faculty Publications

This Article identifies a new method of constitutional interpretation: the use of tradition as constitutive of constitutional meaning. It studies what the Supreme Court means by invoking tradition and whether what it means remains constant across the document and over time. Traditionalist interpretation is pervasive, consistent, and recurrent across the Court’s constitutional doctrine. So, too, are criticisms of traditionalist interpretation. There are also more immediate reasons to study the role of tradition in constitutional interpretation. The Court’s two newest members, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, have indicated that tradition informs their understanding of constitutional meaning. The study of traditionalist …


Article Ii Vests Executive Power, Not The Royal Prerogative, Julian Davis Mortenson Jun 2019

Article Ii Vests Executive Power, Not The Royal Prerogative, Julian Davis Mortenson

Articles

Article II of the United States Constitution vests “the executive power” in the President. For more than two hundred years, advocates of presidential power have claimed that this phrase was originally understood to include a bundle of national security and foreign affairs authorities. Their efforts have been highly successful. Among constitutional originalists, this so-called “Vesting Clause Thesis” is now conventional wisdom. But it is also demonstrably wrong. Based on an exhaustive review of the eighteenth-century bookshelf, this Article shows that the ordinary meaning of “executive power” referred unambiguously to a single, discrete, and potent authority: the power to execute law. …