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Constitutional theory

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Full-Text Articles in Law

Originalism, Official History, And Perspectives Versus Methodologies, Keith N. Hylton Sep 2023

Originalism, Official History, And Perspectives Versus Methodologies, Keith N. Hylton

Faculty Scholarship

This paper addresses a well-worn topic: originalism, the theory that judges should interpret the Constitution in a manner consistent with the intent of its framers. I am interested in the real-world effects of originalism. The primary effect advanced by originalists is the tendency of the approach to constrain the discretion of judges. However, another effect of originalism that I identify is the creation of official histories, a practice that imposes a hidden tax on society. Another question I consider is whether originalism should be considered a methodology of analyzing the law or a perspective on the law. I argue that …


Movement On Removal: An Emerging Consensus On The First Congress, Jed Handelsman Shugerman Aug 2023

Movement On Removal: An Emerging Consensus On The First Congress, Jed Handelsman Shugerman

Faculty Scholarship

What did the “Decision of 1789” decide about presidential removal power, if anything? It turns out that an emerging consensus of scholars agrees that there was not much consensus in the First Congress.

Two more questions follow: Is the “unitary executive theory” based on originalism, and if so, is originalism a reliable method of interpretation based on historical evidence?

The unitary executive theory posits that a president has exclusive and “indefeasible” executive powers (i.e., powers beyond congressional and judicial checks and balances). This panel was an opportunity for unitary executive theorists and their critics to debate recent historical research questioning …


Freehold Offices Vs. 'Despotic Displacement': Why Article Ii 'Executive Power' Did Not Include Removal, Jed Handelsman Shugerman Jul 2023

Freehold Offices Vs. 'Despotic Displacement': Why Article Ii 'Executive Power' Did Not Include Removal, Jed Handelsman Shugerman

Faculty Scholarship

The Roberts Court has relied on an assertion that Article II’s “executive power” implied an “indefeasible” or unconditional presidential removal power. In the wake of growing historical evidence against their theory, unitary executive theorists have fallen back on a claim of a “backdrop” or default removal rule from English and other European monarchies. However, unitary theorists have not provided support for these repeated assertions, while making a remarkable number of errors, especially in the recent “The Executive Power of Removal” (Harvard L. Rev. 2023).

This Article offers an explanation for the difficulty in supporting this historical claim: Because …


American Religious Liberty Without (Much) Theory: A Review Of Religion And The American Constitutional Experiment, 5th Edition, Nathan S. Chapman Jan 2023

American Religious Liberty Without (Much) Theory: A Review Of Religion And The American Constitutional Experiment, 5th Edition, Nathan S. Chapman

Scholarly Works

Book review of Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment, 5th ed. By John Witte Jr., Joel A. Nichols, and Richard W. Garnett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022. Pp. 464. $150.00 (cloth); $39.95 (paper); $26.99 (digital). ISBN: 9780197587614.


Keeping Our Distinctions Straight: A Response To “Originalism: Standard And Procedure”, Mitchell N. Berman Jan 2022

Keeping Our Distinctions Straight: A Response To “Originalism: Standard And Procedure”, Mitchell N. Berman

All Faculty Scholarship

For half a century, moral philosophers have distinguished between a “standard” that makes acts right and a “decision procedure” by which agents can determine whether any given contemplated act is right, which is to say whether it satisfies the standard. In “Originalism: Standard and Procedure,” Stephen Sachs argues that the same distinction applies to the constitutional domain and that clear grasp of the difference strengthens the case for originalism because theorists who emphasize the infirmities of originalism as a decision procedure frequently but mistakenly infer that those flaws also cast doubt on originalism as a standard. This invited response agrees …


Courts, Constitutionalism, And State Capacity: A Preliminary Inquiry, Madhav Khosla, Mark Tushnet Jan 2022

Courts, Constitutionalism, And State Capacity: A Preliminary Inquiry, Madhav Khosla, Mark Tushnet

Faculty Scholarship

Modern constitutional theory deals almost exclusively with the mechanisms for controlling the exercise of public power. In particular, the focus of constitutional scholars lies in explaining and justifying how courts can effectively keep the exercise of public power within bounds. But there is little point in worrying about the excesses of government power when the government lacks the capacity to get things done in the first place. In this Article, we examine relations between the courts, constitutionalism, and state capacity other than through limiting state power. Through a series of case studies, we suggest how courts confront the problem of …


A Theory Of Constitutional Norms, Ashraf Ahmed Jan 2022

A Theory Of Constitutional Norms, Ashraf Ahmed

Faculty Scholarship

The political convulsions of the past decade have fueled acute interest in constitutional norms or “conventions.” Despite intense scholarly attention, existing accounts are incomplete and do not answer at least one or more of three major questions: (1) What must all constitutional norms do? (2) What makes them conventional? (3) And why are they constitutional?

This Article advances an original theory of constitutional norms that answers these questions. First, it defines them and explains their general character: they are normative, contingent, and arbitrary practices that implement constitutional text and principle. Most scholars have foregone examining how norms are conventional or …


The Constitution, The Common Good, And The Ambition Of Adrian Vermeule, Sotirios Barber, Stephen Macedo, James E. Fleming Jan 2021

The Constitution, The Common Good, And The Ambition Of Adrian Vermeule, Sotirios Barber, Stephen Macedo, James E. Fleming

Faculty Scholarship

Public trust in the U.S. government has declined steadily over the last sixty years, from 73% in 1958 to 17% in 2018 (Pew 12/9/20). Public support for the U.S. Constitution has remained higher. When support for the government dipped to an all-time low of 15% in 2010, support for the Constitution stood at 74%. But the gap has narrowed. From 2010 to 2017 support for the Constitution fell from 74% to around 50%—a drop of 24 points in seven years (AP/NCC 8/12; Rasmussen 2017). These figures suggest that if Americans continue to believe that their government isn’t working, they’ll eventually …


The Puzzles And Possibilities Of Article V, David E. Pozen, Thomas P. Schmidt Jan 2021

The Puzzles And Possibilities Of Article V, David E. Pozen, Thomas P. Schmidt

Faculty Scholarship

Legal scholars describe Article V of the U.S. Constitution, which sets forth rules for amending the document, as an uncommonly stringent and specific constitutional provision. A unanimous Supreme Court has said that a “mere reading demonstrates” that “Article V is clear in statement and in meaning, contains no ambiguity, and calls for no resort to rules of construction.” Although it is familiar that a small set of amendments, most notably the Reconstruction Amendments, elicited credible challenges to their validity, these episodes are seen as anomalous and unrepresentative. Americans are accustomed to disagreeing over the meaning of the constitutional text, but …


Legacies Of Pragmatism, Robert L. Tsai Jan 2021

Legacies Of Pragmatism, Robert L. Tsai

Faculty Scholarship

Pragmatism has triumphed in the law by becoming all things to all people—or has it? This essay, prepared for a symposium at Drake University Law School's Constitutional Law Center, examines the future of pragmatism in constitutional thought. First, I revisit the work of William James to recover the ideal disposition of a pragmatist decision maker. Second, I analyze pragmatism's impact on constitutional theory from Richard Posner to Cass Sunstein, from Philip Bobbitt to Willy Forbath and Joey Fishkin. I show that pragmatism lives on in constitutional theories that don't self-consciously characterize themselves in such terms. I also contend that pragmatism …


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 …


[Dis]Integration: Second-Order Diversity And Schools, Anders Walker Mar 2019

[Dis]Integration: Second-Order Diversity And Schools, Anders Walker

All Faculty Scholarship

This article challenges the prevailing definition of diversity in schools. Borrowing from legal theorist Heather Gerken, it argues that diversity is best understood not simply as a rationale for creating integrated spaces, but also [dis]integrated ones, places where minority students and faculty can occupy majority positions, and are able to exercise majority control. Such spaces serve legitimate pedagogical goals that are different from those associated with statistical integration, and therefore warrant consideration by courts tasked with reviewing the use of race in university admissions.


Response To Bruce Frohnen’S Review Of Fidelity To Our Imperfect Constitution: For Moral Readings And Against Originalisms, James E. Fleming, Bruce P. Frohnen Mar 2018

Response To Bruce Frohnen’S Review Of Fidelity To Our Imperfect Constitution: For Moral Readings And Against Originalisms, James E. Fleming, Bruce P. Frohnen

Faculty Scholarship

It is a privilege to participate in this exchange with Bruce Frohnen concerning our books. In my Fidelity to Our Imperfect Constitution, I observe that in recent years, many have assumed that originalists have a monopoly on concern for fidelity in constitutional interpretation. I reject all forms of originalism and defend a moral reading of the United States Constitution. Such a conception views the Constitution as embodying abstract moral and political principles, not codifying concrete historical rules or practices. It sees interpretation of those principles as requiring normative judgments about how they are best understood, not merely historical research to …


Precedent And Constitutional Structure, Randy J. Kozel Jan 2018

Precedent And Constitutional Structure, Randy J. Kozel

Journal Articles

The Constitution does not talk about precedent, at least not explicitly, but several of its features suggest a place for deference to prior decisions. It isolates the judicial function and insulates federal courts from official and electoral control, promoting a vision of impersonality and continuity. It charges courts with applying a charter that is vague and ambiguous in important respects. And it was enacted at a time when prominent thinkers were already discussing the use of precedent to channel judicial discretion. Taken in combination, these features make deference to precedent a sound inference from the Constitution’s structure, text, and historical …


Petitioning And The Making Of The Administrative State, Maggie Blackhawk Jan 2018

Petitioning And The Making Of The Administrative State, Maggie Blackhawk

All Faculty Scholarship

The administrative state is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy. Many have questioned the legality of the myriad commissions, boards, and agencies through which much of our modern governance occurs. Scholars such as Jerry Mashaw, Theda Skocpol, and Michele Dauber, among others, have provided compelling institutional histories, illustrating that administrative lawmaking has roots in the early American republic. Others have attempted to assuage concerns through interpretive theory, arguing that the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 implicitly amended our Constitution. Solutions offered thus far, however, have yet to provide a deeper understanding of the meaning and function of the administrative state …


The Search For An Egalitarian First Amendment, Jeremy K. Kessler, David E. Pozen Jan 2018

The Search For An Egalitarian First Amendment, Jeremy K. Kessler, David E. Pozen

Faculty Scholarship

Over the past decade, the Roberts Court has handed down a series of rulings that demonstrate the degree to which the First Amendment can be used to thwart economic and social welfare regulation – generating widespread accusations that the Court has created a "new Lochner." This introduction to the Columbia Law Review's Symposium on Free Expression in an Age of Inequality takes up three questions raised by these developments: Why has First Amendment law become such a prominent site for struggles over socioeconomic inequality? Does the First Amendment tradition contain egalitarian elements that could be recovered? And what might a …


For Legal Principles, Mitchell N. Berman Jun 2017

For Legal Principles, Mitchell N. Berman

All Faculty Scholarship

Most legal thinkers believe that legal rules and legal principles are meaningfully distinguished. Many jurists may have no very precise distinction in mind, and those who do might not all agree. But it is widely believed that legal norms come in different logical types, and that one difference is reasonably well captured by a nomenclature that distinguishes “rules” from “principles.” Larry Alexander is the foremost challenger to this bit of legal-theoretic orthodoxy. In several articles, but especially in “Against Legal Principles,” an influential article co-authored with Ken Kress two decades ago, Alexander has argued that legal principles cannot exist.

In …


The Presumptions Of Classical Liberal Constitutionalism, Matthew J. Lindsay Jan 2017

The Presumptions Of Classical Liberal Constitutionalism, Matthew J. Lindsay

All Faculty Scholarship

Richard A. Epstein’s The Classical Liberal Constitution is an imposing addition to the burgeoning body of legal scholarship that seeks to “restore” a robust conception of economic liberty and limited government to its rightful place at the center of American constitutionalism. Legislators and judges operating within a “classical liberal conception of government,” Epstein explains, would approach skeptically “[a]ll [regulatory] proposals that deviate from the basic common law protections of life, liberty, and property.” Classical liberal constitutional courts would thus renounce the toothless rational basis review of the post-New Deal “progressive mindset,” and instead subject to exacting scrutiny the government’s “purported …


Siri-Ously 2.0: What Artificial Intelligence Reveals About The First Amendment, Toni M. Massaro, Helen Norton, Margot E. Kaminski Jan 2017

Siri-Ously 2.0: What Artificial Intelligence Reveals About The First Amendment, Toni M. Massaro, Helen Norton, Margot E. Kaminski

Publications

The First Amendment may protect speech by strong Artificial Intelligence (AI). In this Article, we support this provocative claim by expanding on earlier work, addressing significant concerns and challenges, and suggesting potential paths forward.

This is not a claim about the state of technology. Whether strong AI — as-yet-hypothetical machines that can actually think — will ever come to exist remains far from clear. It is instead a claim that discussing AI speech sheds light on key features of prevailing First Amendment doctrine and theory, including the surprising lack of humanness at its core.

Courts and commentators wrestling with free …


The Moral Reading As A Practice: A Response To Three Comments On Fidelity To Our Imperfect Constitution, James E. Fleming Jul 2016

The Moral Reading As A Practice: A Response To Three Comments On Fidelity To Our Imperfect Constitution, James E. Fleming

Faculty Scholarship

In recent years, many originalists have claimed a monopoly on concern for fidelity in constitutional interpretation. In my book, Fidelity to Our Imperfect Constitution, 1 I reject originalisms—whether old or new, concrete or abstract, living or dead. Instead, I defend what Ronald Dworkin called a “moral reading” of the United States Constitution, or a “philosophic approach” to constitutional interpretation. I refer to conceptions of the Constitution as embodying abstract moral and political principles—not codifying concrete historical rules or practices—and of interpretation of those principles as requiring normative judgments about how they are best understood—not merely historical research to discover relatively …


Economic Structure And Constitutional Structure, Ganesh Sitaraman Jan 2016

Economic Structure And Constitutional Structure, Ganesh Sitaraman

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

In the last four decades, the American middle class has been hollowed out, and fears are growing that economic inequality is leading to political inequality. These trends raise a troubling question: Can our constitutional system survive the collapse of the middle class? This question might seem tangential-if not unrelated-to contemporary constitutional theory. But for most of the history ofpolitical thought, one of the central problems of constitutional design was the relationship between the distribution of wealth in society and the structure of government. Two traditions emerged from thinking about this relationship. The first tradition assumed that society would be divided …


Is Theocracy Our Politics? Thoughts On William Baude's 'Is Originalism Our Law?', Richard A. Primus Jan 2016

Is Theocracy Our Politics? Thoughts On William Baude's 'Is Originalism Our Law?', Richard A. Primus

Articles

In Is Originalism Our Law?, William Baude has made a good kind of argument in favor of originalism. Rather than contending that originalism is the only coherent theory for interpreting a constitution, he makes the more modest claim that it happens to be the way that American judges interpret our Constitution. If he is right—if originalism is our law—then judges deciding constitutional cases ought to be originalists. But what exactly would the content of that obligation be? Calling some interpretive method “our law” might suggest that judges have an obligation to decide cases by reference to that method. But the …


Siri-Ously? Free Speech Rights And Artificial Intelligence, Toni M. Massaro, Helen Norton Jan 2016

Siri-Ously? Free Speech Rights And Artificial Intelligence, Toni M. Massaro, Helen Norton

Publications

Computers with communicative artificial intelligence (AI) are pushing First Amendment theory and doctrine in profound and novel ways. They are becoming increasingly self-directed and corporal in ways that may one day make it difficult to call the communication ours versus theirs. This, in turn, invites questions about whether the First Amendment ever will (or ever should) cover AI speech or speakers even absent a locatable and accountable human creator. In this Article, we explain why current free speech theory and doctrine pose surprisingly few barriers to this counterintuitive result; their elasticity suggests that speaker humanness no longer may be …


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 …


Time, Institutions, And Adjudication, Gary S. Lawson Dec 2015

Time, Institutions, And Adjudication, Gary S. Lawson

Faculty Scholarship

Some of my earliest and fondest memories regarding constitutional theory involve Mike McConnell. He was a participant at the very first Federalist Society conference in 1982, at a time when the entire universe of conservative constitutional theorists fit comfortably in the front of one classroom. More importantly, at another Federalist Society conference in 1987, he gave a speech on constitutional interpretation that, unbeknownst to him, profoundly shaped my entire intellectual approach to the field by emphasizing the obvious but oftoverlooked point that different kinds of documents call for different kinds of interpretative methods.1 In 2015, it is more than an …


Civil Liberties And The 'Imaginative Sustenance' Of Jewish Culture, Susan Bandes May 2015

Civil Liberties And The 'Imaginative Sustenance' Of Jewish Culture, Susan Bandes

College of Law Faculty

This short essay is included in a symposium issue entitled "People of the Book: Judaism's Influence on American Legal Scholarship." It is a meditation on how my background as a Reform Jew growing up in New York City influenced my work as a constitutional lawyer and my scholarship in the fields of criminal procedure and federal jurisdiction. As Irving Howe observed: "The imaginative sustenance that Yiddish culture and the immigrant experience could give to American Jewish writers rarely depended on their awareness or acknowledgement of its presence. Often it took the form of hidden links of attitude and value." In …


Religious Rights In Historical, Theoretical And International Context: Hobby Lobby As A Jurisprudential Anomaly, S. I. Strong May 2015

Religious Rights In Historical, Theoretical And International Context: Hobby Lobby As A Jurisprudential Anomaly, S. I. Strong

Faculty Publications

The United States has a long and complicated history concerning religious rights, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., has done little to clear up the jurisprudence in this field. Although the decision will doubtless generate a great deal of commentary as a matter of constitutional and statutory law, the better approach is to consider whether and to what extent the majority and dissenting opinions reflect the fundamental principles of religious liberty. Only in that context can the merits of such a novel decision be evaluated free from political and other biases.

This …


Original Meaning And The Precedent Fallback, Randy J. Kozel Jan 2015

Original Meaning And The Precedent Fallback, Randy J. Kozel

Journal Articles

There is longstanding tension between originalism and judicial precedent. With its resolute focus on deciphering the enacted Constitution, the originalist methodology raises questions about whether judges can legitimately defer to their own pronouncements. Numerous scholars have responded by debating whether and when the Constitution’s original meaning should yield to contrary precedent.

This Article considers the role of judicial precedent not when it conflicts with the Constitution’s original meaning but rather when the consultation of text and historical evidence is insufficient to resolve a case. In those situations, deference to precedent can serve as a fallback rule of constitutional adjudication. The …


Judge Posner’S Simple Law, Mitchell N. Berman Jan 2015

Judge Posner’S Simple Law, Mitchell N. Berman

All Faculty Scholarship

The world is complex, Richard Posner observes in his most recent book, Reflections on Judging. It follows that, to resolve real-world disputes sensibly, judges must be astute students of the world’s complexity. The problem, he says, is that, thanks to disposition, training, and professional incentives, they aren’t. Worse than that, the legal system generates its own complexity precisely to enable judges “to avoid rather than meet and overcome the challenge of complexity” that the world delivers. Reflections concerns how judges needlessly complexify inherently simple law, and how this complexification can be corrected.

Posner’s diagnoses and prescriptions range widely—from the Bluebook …


A Few Thoughts On Free Speech Constitutionalism, Helen Norton Jan 2015

A Few Thoughts On Free Speech Constitutionalism, Helen Norton

Publications

No abstract provided.