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Full-Text Articles in Law

The Constitutional Constant, Richard A. Primus Sep 2017

The Constitutional Constant, Richard A. Primus

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According to a conventional view of the Constitution as a precommitment strategy, constitutional rules must remain fixed over time in order for the Constitution to do its work. In practice, however, constitutional rules regularly change over time, even without formal amendment. What is actually constant over time in the American constitutional system is not the content of constitutional law: it is the correspondence between the content of constitutional law and the American people’s (or at least the decision-making class’s) most powerful intuitions about issues of structure and ethos in American government. At any given time, constitutional law reflects those intuitions. …


The Gibbons Fallacy, Richard A. Primus Mar 2017

The Gibbons Fallacy, Richard A. Primus

Articles

In Gibbons v. Ogden, Chief Justice John Marshall famously wrote that "the enumeration presupposes something not enumerated." Modern courts use that phrase to mean that the Constitutions enumeration of congressional powers indicates that those powers are, as a whole, less than a grant of general legislative authority. But Marshall wasn't saying that. He wasn't talking about the Constitution's overall enumeration of congressional powers at all. He was writing about a different enumeration - the enumeration of three classes of commerce within the Commerce Clause. And Marshall's analysis of the Commerce Clause in Gibbons does not imply that the enumerated …