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

Law Commons

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

Articles 1 - 30 of 47

Full-Text Articles in Law

Originalism After Dobbs, Bruen, And Kennedy: The Role Of History And Tradition, Randy E. Barnett, Lawrence B. Solum Nov 2023

Originalism After Dobbs, Bruen, And Kennedy: The Role Of History And Tradition, Randy E. Barnett, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In three recent cases, the constitutional concepts of history and tradition have played important roles in the reasoning of the Supreme Court. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization relied on history and tradition to overrule Roe v. Wade. New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen articulated a history and tradition test for the validity of laws regulating the right to bear arms recognized by the Second Amendment. Kennedy v. Bremerton School District looked to history and tradition in formulating the test for the consistency of state action with the Establishment Clause.

These cases raise important questions about …


Gouverneur Morris And The Drafting Of The Federalist Constitution, William M. Treanor Jan 2023

Gouverneur Morris And The Drafting Of The Federalist Constitution, William M. Treanor

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The Salmon P. Chase Colloquium series has had two themes: One is great moments in constitutional law, and the other is people who have been forgotten but should not have been. This colloquium is primarily in the latter category—it is about a forgotten founder of the Constitution. But the Constitution has more than one forgotten founder. I did a Google search this afternoon for “Forgotten Founder” and there are a whole series of books on various people who are the Constitution’s Forgotten Founder. So the Chase Colloquium series has another decade of subjects: Luther Martin, George Mason, Charles Pinckney, Roger …


Confrontation, The Legacy Of Crawford, And Important Unanswered Questions, Paul F. Rothstein, Ronald J. Coleman Jan 2023

Confrontation, The Legacy Of Crawford, And Important Unanswered Questions, Paul F. Rothstein, Ronald J. Coleman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

This is a short piece for the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform as part of its 2024 Symposium on “Crawford at 20: Reforming the Confrontation Clause.” The piece's purpose is to highlight certain important questions left unanswered by Crawford v. Washington and subsequent confrontation cases.


America’S Racial Stain: The Taint Argument And The Limits Of Constitutional Law And Rhetoric, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2022

America’S Racial Stain: The Taint Argument And The Limits Of Constitutional Law And Rhetoric, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

How should reformers respond to America’s racial stain? The problem is more complex than many imagine. Political activists usually attempt to promote change by taking advantage of a gap between current reality and a touchstone they use to measure the normative desirability of that reality. But what if the touchstone itself is infected by the reality that activists want to change?

Questions raised by this problem do not lend themselves to definitive answers, and this essay does not offer them. Instead, I suggest a variety of responses that attempt to grapple with the difficulty. I also offer tentative assessments of …


Remapping Constitutional Theory, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2022

Remapping Constitutional Theory, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The time has come for constitutional theory to move beyond the stale argument between originalists and living constitutionalists. The declining significance of that debate provides a motivating backdrop for this Article, but it is not the main point of the discussion. Instead, this Article focuses on the possibility of remapping constitutional disagreement in a fresher, more generative, and more descriptively accurate fashion.

The discussion begins with another familiar dichotomy – the distinction between “judicial activism” and “judicial restraint.” Unfortunately, as employed in popular discussion and in some academic literature, this distinction is also confused and unhelpful. However, we can begin …


House Rules: Congress And The Attorney-Client Privilege, David Rapallo Jan 2022

House Rules: Congress And The Attorney-Client Privilege, David Rapallo

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In 2020, the Supreme Court rendered a landmark decision in Trump v. Mazars establishing four factors for determining the validity of congressional subpoenas for a sitting president’s personal papers. In an unanticipated move, Chief Justice John Roberts added that recipients of congressional subpoenas have “long been understood” to retain not only constitutional privileges, but common law privileges developed by judges, including the attorney-client privilege. This was particularly surprising since Trump was not relying on the attorney-client privilege and the Court had never treated this common law privilege as overriding Congress’s Article I power to set its own procedures for conducting …


Constitutional Skepticism And Local Facts, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2021

Constitutional Skepticism And Local Facts, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Are written constitutions evil? In his new book, Constitutional Idolatry and Democracy, Brian Christoper Jones argues that they are. He claims that written constitutions fail to unite societies, degrade democratic engagement, and obstruct necessary constitutional maintenance. This review of his book argues that he is mostly right about the effects of the American Constitution, but that the effects of other constitutions will vary depending upon local facts.


From Parchment To Dust: The Case For Constitutional Skepticism (Introduction), Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2021

From Parchment To Dust: The Case For Constitutional Skepticism (Introduction), Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

This is the introduction to a new book entitled "From Parchment to Dust: The Case for Constitutional Skepticism." The introduction sets out a preliminary case for constitutional skepticism and outlines the arguments contained in the rest of the book.


The Case Of The Dishonest Scrivener: Gouverneur Morris And The Creation Of The Federalist Constitution, William M. Treanor Jan 2021

The Case Of The Dishonest Scrivener: Gouverneur Morris And The Creation Of The Federalist Constitution, William M. Treanor

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

At the end of the Constitutional Convention, the delegates appointed the Committee of Style and Arrangement to bring together the textual provisions that the Convention had previously agreed to and to prepare a final constitution. Pennsylvania delegate Gouverneur Morris drafted the document for the Committee, and, with few revisions and little debate, the Convention adopted Morris’s draft. For more than two hundred years, questions have been raised as to whether Morris covertly altered the text in order to advance his constitutional vision, but modern legal scholars and historians studying the Convention have either ignored the issue or concluded that Morris …


Why A Wealth Tax Is Definitely Constitutional, John R. Brooks, David Gamage Jan 2020

Why A Wealth Tax Is Definitely Constitutional, John R. Brooks, David Gamage

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Wealth tax reform proposals are playing a major role in the 2020 presidential campaign. However, some opponents of these wealth tax reform proposals have claimed that a wealth tax would be unconstitutional. Other prominent critics have argued that wealth tax reforms are probably unconstitutional, so that, after review by the courts, the “likeliest outcome is that a wealth tax will raise exactly zero dollars.”

These claims are wrong. More precisely, these claims are wrong conditioned on wealth tax legislation being carefully drafted so as to ensure its constitutionality. As we will explain in this essay, properly drafted, wealth tax reform …


Rucho Is Right – But For The Wrong Reasons, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2020

Rucho Is Right – But For The Wrong Reasons, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In Rucho v. Common Cause, the Supreme Court ended its long struggle to formulate constitutional standards to regulate political gerrymandering by declaring that it was not up to the job. The Court held that it could come up with no manageable standards governing the controversy and that it therefore posed a nonjusticiable political question.

In this brief comment, I attempt defend this outcome. The task is not easy, and I hope that the reader will at least give me some points for degree of difficulty. There is no denying that partisan gerrymandering is a very serious evil and there …


The Ratchet Wreck: Equality’S Leveling Down Problem, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2020

The Ratchet Wreck: Equality’S Leveling Down Problem, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Constitutional equality law has a two-way ratchet problem. When someone demonstrates that a government policy treats her unequally, the injury can be remedied by improving things for the claimant, but it can also be remedied by leaving the claimant’s status unchanged while making things worse for the people advantaged by the policy. If a court chooses the latter option, it diminishes the welfare of some people while arguably not improving welfare of anyone else. Why is that a good idea?

Courts have often attempted to avoid hard questions like these by leveling up – that is by allowing advantaged persons …


Originalism Versus Living Constitutionalism: The Conceptual Structure Of The Great Debate, Lawrence B. Solum Apr 2019

Originalism Versus Living Constitutionalism: The Conceptual Structure Of The Great Debate, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

This Essay explores the conceptual structure of the great debate about “originalism” and “living constitutionalism.” The core of the great debate is substantive and addresses the normative question, “What is the best theory of constitutional interpretation and construction?” That question leads to others, including questions about the various forms and variations of originalism and living constitutionalism. Originalists argue that the meaning of the constitutional text is fixed and that it should bind constitutional actors. Living constitutionalists contend that constitutional law can and should evolve in response to changing circumstances and values. This Essay advances a metalinguistic proposal for classifying theories …


The Declaration Of Independence And The American Theory Of Government: “First Come Rights, And Then Comes Government”, Randy E. Barnett Jan 2019

The Declaration Of Independence And The American Theory Of Government: “First Come Rights, And Then Comes Government”, Randy E. Barnett

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The topic of this panel is the Declaration of Independence, to which I devoted a chapter of my recent book, Our Republican Constitution. I want to draw on that book to make five points.


Originalist Theory And Precedent: A Public Meaning Approach, Lawrence B. Solum Oct 2018

Originalist Theory And Precedent: A Public Meaning Approach, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Much ink has already been spilled on the relationship of constitutional originalism to precedent (or, more specifically, the doctrine of stare decisis). The debate includes contributions from Randy Barnett, Steven Calabresi, Kurt Lash, Gary Lawson, John McGinnis with Michael Rappaport, Michael Paulsen, and Lee Strang, not to mention Justice Antonin Scalia—all representing originalism in some form. Living constitutionalism has also been represented both implicitly and explicitly, with important contributions from Phillip Bobbitt, Ronald Dworkin, Michael Gerhardt, Randy Kozel, and David Strauss. Some writers are more difficult to classify; Akhil Amar comes to mind. And there are many other contributions to …


After All These Years, Lochner Was Not Crazy—It Was Good, Randy E. Barnett Jul 2018

After All These Years, Lochner Was Not Crazy—It Was Good, Randy E. Barnett

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

For this year’s Rosenkranz Debate, we have been asked to debate the question: Lochner v. New York: Still Crazy After All These Years? It is my job to defend the “negative” position. My burden is not to establish that Lochner was correctly decided, but merely that it was not “crazy.” I intend to meet that burden and exceed it. I intend to show how Lochner v. New York was not at all crazy; in fact, it was a reasonable and good decision.


The Triumph Of Gay Marriage And The Failure Of Constitutional Law, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2015

The Triumph Of Gay Marriage And The Failure Of Constitutional Law, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The Supreme Court's much anticipated invalidation of gay marriage bans improved the personal lives of millions of ordinary Americans. It made the country a more decent place. Even Chief Justice Roberts, at the conclusion of his otherwise scathing dissent, acknowledged that the decision was a cause for many Americans to celebrate.

But although the Chief Justice thought that advocates of gay marriage should "by all means celebrate today's decision," he admonished them "not [to] celebrate the Constitution." The Constitution, he said, "had nothing to do with it".

Part I of this article quarrels with the Chief Justice's assertion that the …


Constitutional Skepticism: A Recovery And Preliminary Evaluation, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2014

Constitutional Skepticism: A Recovery And Preliminary Evaluation, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The aim of this article is to recover and reevaluate the American tradition of constitutional skepticism. Part I consists of a brief history of skepticism running from before the founding to the modern period. My aim here is not to provide anything like a complete description of the historical actors, texts, and events that I discuss. Instead, I link together familiar episodes and arguments that stretch across our history so as to demonstrate that they are part of a common narrative that has been crucial to our self-identity. Part II disentangles the various strands of skeptical argument. I argue that …


How Nfib V. Sebelius Affects The Constitutional Gestalt, Lawrence B. Solum Jun 2013

How Nfib V. Sebelius Affects The Constitutional Gestalt, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The thesis of this essay is that the most important legal effects of the Supreme Court's decision in NFIB v. Sebelius are likely to be indirect. Sebelius marks a possible shift in what we can call the “constitutional gestalt” regarding the meaning and implications of the so-called “New Deal Settlement.” Before Sebelius, the consensus understanding was that New Deal and Warren Court cases had established a constitutional regime of plenary and virtually unlimited national legislative power under the Commerce Clause (which might be subject to narrow and limited carve outs protective of the core of state sovereignty).

After Sebelius …


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?


Political And Constitutional Obligation, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2013

Political And Constitutional Obligation, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In his provocative, courageous, and original new book, "Against Obligation: The Multiple Sources of Authority in a Liberal Democracy," Abner Greene argues that there is “no successful general case for a presumptive (or ‘prima facie’) moral duty to obey the law.” In my own book, "On Constitutional Disobedience," I argue that there is no moral duty to obey our foundational law–the Constitution of the United States. This brief article, prepared for a symposium on the two books to be published by the Boston University Law Review, I address three issues related to these claims. First, I discuss what seem to …


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: …


Why Jeremy Waldron Really Agrees With Me, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2013

Why Jeremy Waldron Really Agrees With Me, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Herewith a response to Jeremy Waldron's review of my book, On Constitutional Disobedience. I conclude that Waldron actually agrees with all of my key claims.


Depoliticizing Federalism, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2012

Depoliticizing Federalism, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In his great biography of President Andrew Jackson, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. celebrated Jackson’s defense of the rights of states and opposition to federal power. Yet as a mid-twentieth century liberal, Schlesinger was a strong supporter of the federal government and an opponent of states’ rights. Was Schlesinger’s position inconsistent? He did not think so, and neither does the author. In Jackson’s time, an entrenched economic elite controlled the federal government and used federal power to dominate the lower classes. State governments served as a focal point for opposition to this domination. By mid-twentieth century, the federal government was an engine …


Biodefense And Constitutional Constraints, Laura K. Donohue Jan 2011

Biodefense And Constitutional Constraints, Laura K. Donohue

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The United States and United Kingdom have different approaches to quarantine law that reflect each country’s unique historical context and constitutional structure. Under the Tudors, England vested quarantine authority in the monarch, with its subsequent exercise conducted by the military. As the constitutional structure changed, the manner in which quarantine was given effect subtly shifted, leading to constitutional reforms. Authorities transferred first to the Privy Council and, subsequently, to Parliament, where commercial interests successfully lobbied them out of existence. By the end of the 19th Century, quarantine authorities had been pushed down to the local port authorities. In the United …


Should We Have A Liberal Constitution?, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2011

Should We Have A Liberal Constitution?, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In this brief essay, I attempt to accomplish two things. In Part I, I defend my proposed constitution against its putative liberal critics. In Part II, I argue that given contingent but highly plausible empirical assumptions, the differences between my constitution and a liberal constitution are less dramatic than one might suppose. There are often sound, nonliberal grounds for supporting institutional arrangements that appear liberal. It turns out, then, that liberalism is both less attractive (Part I) and less necessary (Part II) than its defenders suppose.


Is The Constitution Libertarian?, Randy E. Barnett Jan 2009

Is The Constitution Libertarian?, Randy E. Barnett

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Ever since Justice Holmes famously asserted that “the Constitution does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics,” academics have denied that the Constitution is libertarian. In this essay, I explain that the Constitution is libertarian to the extent that its original meaning respects and protects the five fundamental rights that are at the core of both classical liberalism and modern libertarianism. These rights can be protected both directly by judicial decisions and indirectly by structural constraints. While the original Constitution and Bill of Rights provided both forms of constraints, primarily on federal power, it left states free to violate the …


The Misconceived Assumption About Constitutional Assumptions, Randy E. Barnett Jan 2009

The Misconceived Assumption About Constitutional Assumptions, Randy E. Barnett

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Both originalists and nonoriginalists alike often assume that background assumptions widely held when the Constitution or its amendments were enacted are part of the original meaning of the text. Originalists sometimes appeal to these background assumptions to render the meaning of more abstract words or phrases more determinate; nonoriginalist point to odious or outmoded assumptions as proof that original meaning is objectionable and should be rejected.

In this paper, the author examines the proper role of background assumptions in constitutional interpretation when ascertaining the meaning of the terms, and in constitutional construction when applying this meaning to particular cases and …


Kurt Lash's Majoritarian Difficulty: A Response To A Textual-Historical Theory Of The Ninth Amendment, Randy E. Barnett Jan 2008

Kurt Lash's Majoritarian Difficulty: A Response To A Textual-Historical Theory Of The Ninth Amendment, Randy E. Barnett

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Kurt Lash believes that, in addition to individual natural rights, the Ninth Amendment protects collective or majoritarian rights as well. In this essay the author explains why Lash’s majoritarian vision is contrary to the antimajoritarianism of the man who devised the Ninth Amendment, James Madison, and those who wrote the Constitution. Not coincidentally, it is contrary to the individualism of the other amendments constituting the Bill of Rights, and the public meaning of the Ninth Amendment as it was received during its ratification. It is also contrary to the individualist conception of popular sovereignty adopted in the text of the …


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 …