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Constitutional interpretation

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Full-Text Articles in Law

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. …


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 …


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 …


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. …


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 …


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. …


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. …


The Elephant Problem, Richard Primus Jan 2019

The Elephant Problem, Richard Primus

Reviews

In their new book, "A Great Power of Attorney": Understanding the Fiduciary Constitution, Gary Lawson and Guy Seidman argue that, as a matter of original meaning, the Constitution should be understood as analogous to a power of attorney, that interpretive devices applicable to powers of attorney should therefore be used in constitutional interpretation, and that interpreting the Constitution that way would produce results congenial to modern libertarian preferences, such as the unconstitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and the invalidity, on nondelegation grounds, of much of the federal administrative state. But the book fails to carry any of its central …


Animus And Its Alternatives: Constitutional Principle And Judicial Prudence, Daniel O. Conkle Jan 2019

Animus And Its Alternatives: Constitutional Principle And Judicial Prudence, Daniel O. Conkle

Articles by Maurer Faculty

In a series of cases addressing sexual orientation and other issues, the Supreme Court has ruled that animus-based lawmaking is constitutionally impermissible. The Court treats animus as an independent and sufficient basis for invalidation. Moreover, it appears to regard animus as a doctrine of first resort, to be utilized even when an alternative constitutional rationale, such as declaring a challenged classification suspect or quasi-suspect, would readily justify the same result. Responding especially to Professor William D. Araiza’s elaboration and defense of the Court’s animus doctrine, I agree that this doctrine is sound, indeed compelling, as a matter of constitutional principle. …


Constructing The Original Scope Of Constitutional Rights, Nathan Chapman Jan 2019

Constructing The Original Scope Of Constitutional Rights, Nathan Chapman

Scholarly Works

In this solicited response to Ingrid Wuerth's "The Due Process and Other Constitutional Rights of Foreign Nations," I explain and justify Wuerth's methodology for constructing the original scope of constitutional rights. The original understanding of the Constitution, based on text and historical context, is a universally acknowledged part of constitutional law today. The original scope of constitutional rights — who was entitled to them, where they extended, and so on — is a particularly difficult question that requires a measure of construction based on the entire historical context. Wuerth rightly proceeds one right at a time with a careful consideration …


Mostly Settled, But Right For Now, Corinna Lain Jan 2018

Mostly Settled, But Right For Now, Corinna Lain

Law Faculty Publications

Randy Kozel’s book, Settled Versus Right: A Theory of Precedent, is a laudable effort to make the law more stable, more cohesive, more impersonal — an effort to show that the law can endure even as Justices come and go. The core of his contribution is a proposed doctrine of stare decisis that disentangles deference to precedent from the interpretive methodologies that led to the precedent in the first place, and that so often determine the amount of deference a precedent gets. As a purely doctrinal project, Settled Versus Right naturally assumes that if we fix the doctrine, we’ll fix …


Still Living After Fifty Years: A Census Of Judicial Review Under The Pennsylvania Constitution Of 1968, Seth F. Kreimer Jan 2018

Still Living After Fifty Years: A Census Of Judicial Review Under The Pennsylvania Constitution Of 1968, Seth F. Kreimer

All Faculty Scholarship

The year 2018 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1968. The time seems ripe, therefore, to explore the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s exercise of judicial review under the 1968 Pennsylvania Constitution. This Article constitutes the first such comprehensive exploration.

The Article begins with an historical overview of the evolution of the Pennsylvania Constitution, culminating in the Constitution of 1968. It then presents a census of the 372 cases in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has vindicated distinctive Pennsylvania Constitutional rights under the Constitution of 1968.

Analysis of these cases leads to three conclusions:

1. Exercise of independent constitutional …


The Constitutional Law Of Incarceration, Reconfigured, Margo Schlanger Jan 2018

The Constitutional Law Of Incarceration, Reconfigured, Margo Schlanger

Articles

On any given day, about 2.2 million people are confined in U.S. jails and prisons—nearly 0.9% of American men are in prison, and another 0.4% are in jail. This year, 9 or 10 million people will spend time in our prisons and jails; about 5000 of them will die there. A decade into a frustratingly gradual decline in incarceration numbers, the statistics have grown familiar: We have 4.4% of the world’s population but over 20% of its prisoners. Our incarceration rate is 57% higher than Russia’s (our closest major country rival in imprisonment), nearly four times the rate in England, …


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 …


Debating Is The Constitution Special?, Richard Primus, Kevin M. Stack, Christopher Serkin, Nelson Tebbe Sep 2017

Debating Is The Constitution Special?, Richard Primus, Kevin M. Stack, Christopher Serkin, Nelson Tebbe

Articles

In 1890, Louis Brandeis wrote The Right to Privacy. Within a matter of years, the courts began adopting his theory, creating a newly articulated legal right. This article likely represented the high-water mark of legal academia in terms of real world impact. In recent years, the academy has lost much of its relevance. Chief Justice Roberts ridiculed academic work, suggesting that legal scholarship has become esoteric and irrelevant. This should not be the case. The quality of legal scholars is higher than it has ever been—young scholars now often enter the academy with doctoral degrees in related fields. Likewise, technology …


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 …


The Constitutional Ratchet Effect, Kevin M. Stack Jan 2017

The Constitutional Ratchet Effect, Kevin M. Stack

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

No abstract provided.


The Inference From Authority To Interpretive Method In Constitutional And Statutory Domains, Kevin M. Stack Jan 2017

The Inference From Authority To Interpretive Method In Constitutional And Statutory Domains, Kevin M. Stack

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

Should courts interpret the Constitution as they interpret statutes? This question has been answered in a wide variety of ways. On the one hand, many scholars and jurists understand constitutional and statutory interpretation as largely overlapping, continuous, or converging. For some, this overlap follows directly from the Constitution's status as a form of legislated law. In this way of thinking, because the Constitution, like a statute, was bargained over and formally adopted, it should be interpreted in accordance with general principles applicable to legislated law. Proponents of this view argue that if constitutional interpretation appears distinctive in practice, that is …


Conservatives And The Court, Robert F. Nagel Jan 2017

Conservatives And The Court, Robert F. Nagel

Publications

No abstract provided.


Fidelity To Our Imperfect Constitution: A Response To Five Views, James E. Fleming Jan 2017

Fidelity To Our Imperfect Constitution: A Response To Five Views, James E. Fleming

Faculty Scholarship

En mi libro reciente, Fidelity to Our Imperfect Constitution, adelanto una crí-tica sostenida al originalismo en todas sus formas y defiendo tanto lo que Ronald Dworkin llamó una “lectura moral” de la Constitución de los Estados Unidos de América como lo que, junto a Sotirios A. Barber, he llamado una “aproximación filosófica” a la interpretación constitucional. En este ensayo para el Simposio sobre el libro, respondo a cinco comentarios muy pensa-dos. Primero, en contra del comentario de Sot Barber, justifico el responder a la “resurgencia persistente del originalismo” y el tratar de “salvar al ori-ginalismo nuevo de sí mismo” al …


Presidential Constitutional Interpretation, Signing Statements, Executive Power And Zivotofsky, Henry L. Chambers, Jr. Oct 2016

Presidential Constitutional Interpretation, Signing Statements, Executive Power And Zivotofsky, Henry L. Chambers, Jr.

Law Faculty Publications

This Article explores whether the President should interpret the Constitution aggressively and, if so, whether the President should act on such aggressive interpretations. Part I examines whether the presidential oath and other constitutional duties obligate the President to interpret the Constitution. Part II considers constitutional signing statements as the manifestation of an aggressive approach to presidential constitutional interpretation. Part III considers whether the Constitution is a legal document or a political document, and how that determination might affect how aggressive the President should be when interpreting the Constitution. Part IV considers how the Supreme Court's and Congress's constitutional interpretations might …


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 …