Open Access. Powered by Scholars. Published by Universities.®

Law Commons

Open Access. Powered by Scholars. Published by Universities.®

Columbia Law School

Constitutional interpretation

Constitutional Law

Articles 1 - 11 of 11

Full-Text Articles in Law

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 …


Comparative Approaches To Constitutional History, Jamal Greene, Yvonne Tew Jan 2018

Comparative Approaches To Constitutional History, Jamal Greene, Yvonne Tew

Faculty Scholarship

An historical approach to constitutional interpretation draws upon original intentions or understandings of the meaning or application of a constitutional provision. Comparing the ways in which courts in different jurisdictions use history is a complex exercise. In recent years, academic and judicial discussion of “originalism” has obscured both the global prevalence of resorting to historical materials as an interpretive resource and the impressive diversity of approaches courts may take to deploying those materials. This chapter seeks, in Section B, to develop a basic taxonomy of historical approaches. Section C explores in greater depth the practices of eight jurisdictions with constitutional …


Constitutional Bad Faith, David E. Pozen Jan 2016

Constitutional Bad Faith, David E. Pozen

Faculty Scholarship

The concepts of good faith and bad faith play a central role in many areas of private law and international law. Typically associated with honesty, loyalty, and fair dealing, good faith is said to supply the fundamental principle of every legal system, if not the foundation of all law. With limited exceptions, however, good faith and bad faith go unmentioned in constitutional cases brought by or against government institutions. This doctrinal deficit is especially striking given that the U.S. Constitution twice refers to faithfulness and that insinuations of bad faith pervade constitutional discourse.

This Article investigates these points and their …


Working Themselves Impure: A Life Cycle Theory Of Legal Theories, Jeremy Kessler, David Pozen Jan 2016

Working Themselves Impure: A Life Cycle Theory Of Legal Theories, Jeremy Kessler, David Pozen

Faculty Scholarship

Prescriptive legal theories have a tendency to cannibalize themselves. As they develop into schools of thought, they become not only increasingly complicated but also increasingly compromised, by their own normative lights. Maturation breeds adulteration. The theories work themselves impure.

This Article identifies and diagnoses this evolutionary phenomenon. We develop a stylized model to explain the life cycle of certain particularly influential legal theories. We illustrate this life cycle through case studies of originalism, textualism, popular constitutionalism, and cost-benefit analysis, as well as a comparison with leading accounts of organizational and theoretical change in politics and science. And we argue that …


Constitutional Bad Faith, David Pozen Jan 2015

Constitutional Bad Faith, David Pozen

Faculty Scholarship

The concepts of good faith and bad faith play a central role in many areas of private law and international law. Typically associated with honesty, loyalty, and fair dealing, good faith is said to supply the fundamental principle of every legal system, if not the foundation of all law. With limited exceptions, however, good faith and bad faith go unmentioned in constitutional cases brought by or against government institutions. This doctrinal deficit is especially striking given that the U.S. Constitution twice refers to faithfulness and that insinuations of bad faith pervade constitutional discourse.

This Article investigates these points and their …


Secession, Then And Now, Jessica Bulman-Pozen Jan 2015

Secession, Then And Now, Jessica Bulman-Pozen

Faculty Scholarship

Secession has been back in the news of late. Hundreds of thousands of individuals across the country signed petitions seeking permission for their states to leave the United States after President Obama’s reelection; Governor Perry riffed on Texas’s departure from the Union “if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people”; and members of the Second Vermont Republic insist the Green Mountain State would be better off alone. Overseas, a bid for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom nearly prevailed last fall.


Pathetic Argument In Constitutional Law, Jamal Greene Jan 2013

Pathetic Argument In Constitutional Law, Jamal Greene

Faculty Scholarship

Pathetic argument, or argument based on pathos, persuades by appealing to the emotions of the reader or listener. In Aristotle's classic treatment, it exists in parallel to logical argument, which appeals to deductive or inductive reasoning, and ethical argument, which appeals to the character of the speaker. Pathetic argument is common in constitutional law, as in other practical discourse-think of "Poor Joshua!"- but existing accounts of constitutional practice do not provide resources for understanding the place of and limitations upon such appeals when they appear in judicial opinions. This Article begins to fill that gap. Pathetic argument is one of …


Pathetic Argument In Constitutional Law, Jamal Greene Jan 2013

Pathetic Argument In Constitutional Law, Jamal Greene

Faculty Scholarship

Pathetic argument, or argument based on pathos, persuades by appealing to the emotions of the reader or listener. In Aristotle’s classic treatment, it exists in parallel to logical argument, which appeals to deductive or inductive reasoning, and ethical argument, which appeals to the character of the speaker. Pathetic argument is common in constitutional law, as in other practical discourse — think of “Poor Joshua!” — but existing accounts of constitutional practice do not provide resources for understanding the place of and limitations upon such appeals when they appear in judicial opinions. This Article begins to fill that gap. Pathetic argument …


Are Mental States Relevant For Statutory And Constitutional Interpretation, Kent Greenawalt Jan 2000

Are Mental States Relevant For Statutory And Constitutional Interpretation, Kent Greenawalt

Faculty Scholarship

Judges in the United States must interpret statutes and constitutions. Largely because these texts are framed in the English language, a language shared by legislators, judges, and other citizens, judges employ sufficiently common techniques to sustain a coherent practice. Lawyers can often say with some confidence how judges will construe particular legal provisions, and, when they have serious doubts, they can sketch the likely alternatives. But we are now in an era of sharp theoretical disagreement over what judges do when they interpret authoritative texts.

In difficult cases of statutory interpretation, are judges mainly trying to give language its ordinary …


Constitutional Decisions And The Supreme Law, Kent Greenawalt Jan 1987

Constitutional Decisions And The Supreme Law, Kent Greenawalt

Faculty Scholarship

What status do Supreme Court decisions have for officials in the political branches of our government? Six months ago, Attorney General Edwin Meese III rekindled controversy over this enduring and troublesome question when he claimed in a widely reported lecture that Supreme Court decisions interpreting the Constitution are not the supreme law of the land, and are properly subject to forms of opposition by other governmental officials. The general reaction to the speech was that it was meant to reduce the perceived authority of Supreme Court opinions, and a close reading of the speech certainly leaves this impression. Yet, even …


Comment On Professor Van Alstyne's Paper, Henry P. Monaghan Jan 1986

Comment On Professor Van Alstyne's Paper, Henry P. Monaghan

Faculty Scholarship

My major difficulty with Professor Van Alstyne's paper is its incomplete character. In the end, he makes only two points: first, judges are authorized to apply "this Constitution," not to do justice; and second, judges should not lie about what they are doing. The danger is that after a while the first point sounds somewhat empty, while the actual content of the second point seems entirely parasitic on the first.