Constitution of the United States/Introduction
The 2022 Edition[edit | edit source]
As the keystone of the United States, the Constitution informs federal and state law; delineates the distinct roles of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches of the U.S. Government; and demarcates the powers of the United States from those of the states. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black memorably remarked that "the United States is entirely a creature of the Constitution. Its power and authority have no other source." Although it shapes nearly every aspect of domestic law, the Constitution, including its twenty-seven Amendments, comprises only roughly 7,500 words. As such, it provides more of a general outline than a detailed blueprint of government. While Chief Justice John Marshall established in Marbury v. Madison that the Constitution implicitly accords to the Judicial Branch authority to interpret the law and deem legislative acts contrary to the Constitution void--the power of judicial review--the Legislative and Executive Branches' duties necessarily require them to interpret the Constitution as well. Moreover, in matters specifically entrusted to those branches, or beyond the Judicial Branch's competency to review, Legislative and Executive Branch interpretations are dispositive. Consequently, as Justice Felix Frankfurter observed: "[T]o the legislature no less than courts is committed the guardianship of deeply cherished constitutional rights."
Congress passed legislation in 1797 to provide a copy of the Constitution to every Member of Congress. During the nineteenth century, these copies of the Constitution were enhanced with indexes and case citations. As constitutional law grew more complex, the Senate adopted a resolution in 1921 to provide for copies of the Constitution to be printed with explanations of how the Supreme Court has interpreted its provisions--the Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation (Constitution Annotated). In 1938, the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (CRS) (in the form of its predecessor, the Legislative Reference Service) began to prepare and update the Constitution Annotated. In 1970, Congress regularized publication of the Constitution Annotated, providing for the Librarian of Congress to prepare a new version of the volume every ten years and to issue supplements every two years. In 2019, the Library of Congress launched , making the Constitution Annotated available online to Members of Congress, congressional staff, and the public in a digital, easily-searchable format.
Mirroring the online Constitution Annotated, the 2022 edition of the Constitution Annotated features shorter, more specific essays to allow readers to locate relevant information more quickly. Detailed information on the placement of each essay within the Constitution's framework is included in the headers. Each essay includes its online serial number so that readers can locate the corresponding essay in the online Constitution Annotated, which is regularly updated to reflect new Supreme Court developments.
The following CRS attorneys contributed content to the 2022 edition of the Constitution Annotated: Bryan L. Adkins, April J. Anderson, Christine J. Back, Milan N. Ball, Jimmy Balser, Peter G. Berris, Kate R. Bowers, Valerie C. Brannon, Craig W. Canetti, David H. Carpenter, Jared P. Cole, Michael D. Contino, Jeanne M. Dennis, Charles Doyle, Jennifer K. Elsea, Michael A. Foster, Jonathan M. Gaffney, Michael John Garcia, Todd Garvey, David Gunter, Kevin J. Hickey, Eric N. Holmes, Sanchitha Jayaram, Juria L. Jones, Victoria L. Killion, Joanna R. Lampe, Lauren K. LeBourgeois, Caitlain Devereaux Lewis, Chris D. Linebaugh, Edward C. Liu, Stephen P. Mulligan, Brandon J. Murrill, Whitney K. Novak, Alexander H. Pepper, Kelsey Y. Santamaria, Mainon A. Schwartz, Wen W. Shen, Jon O. Shimabukuro, Hillel R. Smith, Jennifer A. Staman, Sean M. Stiff, Jay B. Sykes, Adam Vann, Delilah T. Vasquez, Erin H. Ward, and L. Paige Whitaker. Georgia I. Gkoulgkountina, Meghan C. Totten, Ji Young Zoey Ryu, and Summer J. Norwood provided invaluable editorial, technical, and paralegal assistance. Special thanks to Deborah Strausser, Chris Leggett, Kenneth DeThomasis, and Sarah Wheeling of the Government Publishing Office, which provided extensive publication support.
Congressional Authorization[edit | edit source]
JOINT RESOLUTION Authorizing the preparation and printing of a revised edition of the Constitution of the United States of America--Analysis and Interpretation, of decennial revised editions thereof, and of biennial cumulative supplements to such revised editions.
Whereas the Constitution of the United States of America--Analysis and Interpretation, published in 1964 as Senate Document Numbered 39, Eighty-eighth Congress, serves a very useful purpose by supplying essential information, not only to the Members of Congress but also to the public at large;
Whereas such document contains annotations of cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States to June 22, 1964;
Whereas many cases bearing significantly upon the analysis and interpretation of the Constitution have been decided by the Supreme Court since June 22, 1964;
Whereas the Congress, in recognition of the usefulness of this type of document, has in the last half century since 1913, ordered the preparation and printing of revised editions of such a document on six occasions at intervals of from ten to fourteen years; and
Whereas the continuing usefulness and importance of such a document will be greatly enhanced by revision at shorter intervals on a regular schedule and thus made more readily available to Members and Committees by means of pocket-part supplements: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Librarian of Congress shall have prepared--
(1) a hardbound revised edition of the Constitution of the United States of America--Analysis and Interpretation, published as Senate Document Numbered 39, Eighty-eighth Congress (referred to hereinafter as the "Constitution Annotated" ), which shall contain annotations of decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States through the end of the October 1971 term of the Supreme Court, construing provisions of the Constitution;
(2) upon the completion of each of the October 1973, October 1975, October 1977, and October 1979 terms of the Supreme Court, a cumulative pocket-part supplement to the hardbound revised edition of the Constitution Annotated prepared pursuant to clause (1), which shall contain cumulative annotations of all such decisions rendered by the Supreme Court after the end of the October 1971 term;
(3) upon the completion of the October 1981 term of the Supreme Court, and upon the completion of each tenth October term of the Supreme Court thereafter, a hardbound decennial revised edition of the Constitution Annotated, which shall contain annotations of all decisions theretofore rendered by the Supreme Court construing provisions of the Constitution; and
(4) upon the completion of the October 1983 term of the Supreme Court, and upon the completion of each subsequent October term of the Supreme Court beginning in an odd-numbered year (the final digit of which is not a 1), a cumulative pocket-part supplement to the most recent hardbound decennial revised edition of the Constitution Annotated, which shall contain cumulative annotations of all such decisions rendered by the Supreme Court which were not included in that hardbound decennial revised edition of the Constitution Annotated.
Sec. 2. All hardbound revised editions and all cumulative pocket-part supplements shall be printed as Senate documents.
Sec. 3. There shall be printed four thousand eight hundred and seventy additional copies of the hardbound revised editions prepared pursuant to clause (1) of the first section and of all cumulative pocket-part supplements thereto, of which two thousand six hundred and thirty-four copies shall be for the use of the House of Representatives, one thousand two hundred and thirty-six copies shall be for the use of the Senate, and one thousand copies shall be for the use of the Joint Committee on Printing. All Members of the Congress, Vice Presidents of the United States, and Delegates and Resident Commissioners, newly elected subsequent to the issuance of the hardbound revised edition prepared pursuant to such clause and prior to the first hardbound decennial revised edition, who did not receive a copy of the edition prepared pursuant to such clause, shall, upon timely request, receive one copy of such edition and the then current cumulative pocket-part supplement and any further supplements thereto. All Members of the Congress, Vice Presidents of the United States, and Delegates and Resident Commissioners, no longer serving after the issuance of the hardbound revised edition prepared pursuant to such clause and who received such edition, may receive one copy of each cumulative pocket-part supplement thereto upon timely request.
Sec. 4. Additional copies of each hardbound decennial revised edition and of the cumulative pocket-part supplements thereto shall be printed and distributed in accordance with the provisions of any concurrent resolution hereafter adopted with respect thereto.
Sec. 5. There are authorized to be appropriated such sums, to remain available until expended, as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this joint resolution.
Approved December 24, 1970.
Background on Amendments to the Constitution[edit | edit source]
Ratification of Amendments to the Constitution Generally[edit | edit source]
The essays that follow discuss the ratification of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America along with the text of the amendments (literal print).
In Dillon v. Gloss, the Supreme Court stated that it would take judicial notice of the date on which a state ratified a proposed constitutional amendment. Accordingly the Court consulted the state journals to determine the dates on which each house of the legislature of certain states ratified the Eighteenth Amendment. It, therefore, follows that the date on which the governor approved the ratification, or the date on which the secretary of state of a given state certified the ratification, or the date on which the Secretary of State of the United States received a copy of said certificate, or the date on which he proclaimed that the amendment had been ratified are not controlling. Hence, the ratification date given in the following essays is the date on which the legislature of a given state approved the particular amendment (signature by the speaker or presiding officers of both houses being considered a part of the ratification of the "legislature"). When that date is not available, the date given is that on which it was approved by the governor or certified by the secretary of state of the particular state. In each case such fact has been noted. Except as otherwise indicated information as to ratification is based on data supplied by the Department of State.
Brackets enclosing an amendment number indicate that the number was not specifically assigned in the resolution proposing the amendment. It will be seen, accordingly, that only the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Amendments were thus technically ratified by number.
Bill of Rights (First Through Tenth Amendments)[edit | edit source]
On September 12, five days before the Convention adjourned, George Mason and Elbridge Gerry raised the question of adding a bill of rights to the Constitution. Mason said: "It would give great quiet to the people; and with the aid of the State declarations, a bill might be prepared in a few hours." But the motion of Gerry and Mason to appoint a committee for the purpose of drafting a bill of rights was rejected. Again, on September 14, Charles Pinckney and Gerry sought to add a provision "that the liberty of the Press should be inviolably observed--." But after Roger Sherman observed that such a declaration was unnecessary, because "[t]he power of Congress does not extend to the Press," this suggestion too was rejected. It cannot be known accurately why the Convention opposed these suggestions. Perhaps the lateness of the Convention, perhaps the desire not to present more opportunity for controversy when the document was forwarded to the states, perhaps the belief, asserted by the defenders of the Constitution when the absence of a bill of rights became critical, that no bill was needed because Congress was delegated none of the powers which such a declaration would deny, perhaps all these contributed to the rejection.
In any event, the opponents of ratification soon made the absence of a bill of rights a major argument, and some friends of the document, such as Thomas Jefferson, strongly urged amendment to include a declaration of rights. Several state conventions ratified while urging that the new Congress to be convened propose such amendments, 124 amendments in all being put forward by these states. Although some dispute has occurred with regard to the obligation of the first Congress to propose amendments, James Madison at least had no doubts and introduced a series of proposals, which he had difficulty claiming the interest of the rest of Congress in considering. At length, the House of Representatives adopted seventeen proposals; the Senate rejected two and reduced the remainder to twelve, which were accepted by the House.
Consequently, the first ten amendments, which are commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights, along with one that was not ratified and one that was not ratified until 1992, were proposed by Congress on September 25, 1789, when they passed the Senate, having previously passed the House on September 24. They appear officially in 1 Stat. 97 (1789). Ratification of the first ten amendments was completed on December 15, 1791, when the eleventh state (Virginia) approved these amendments, there being then fourteen states in the Union.
The several state legislatures ratified the first ten amendments to the Constitution on the following dates: New Jersey, November 20, 1789; Maryland, December 19, 1789; North Carolina, December 22, 1789; South Carolina, January 19, 1790; New Hampshire, January 25, 1790; Delaware, January 28, 1790; New York, February 27, 1790; Pennsylvania, March 10, 1790; Rhode Island, June 7, 1790; Vermont, November 3, 1791; Virginia, December 15, 1791. The two amendments that were not ratified prescribed the ratio of representation to population in the House, and specified that no law varying the compensation of Members of Congress should be effective until after an intervening election of Representatives. The first was ratified by ten states (one short of the requisite number) and the second, by six states; subsequently, this second proposal was taken up by the states in the period 1980-1992 and was proclaimed as ratified as of May 7, 1992. Connecticut, Georgia, and Massachusetts ratified the first ten amendments in 1939.
Early Amendments (Eleventh and Twelfth Amendments)[edit | edit source]
Brackets enclosing an amendment number indicate that the number was not specifically assigned in the resolution proposing the amendment.
The Eleventh Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 4, 1794 when it passed the House, having previously passed the Senate on January 14. It appears officially in 1 Stat. 402. Ratification was completed on February 7, 1795, when the twelfth state (North Carolina) approved the Amendment, there being then fifteen states in the Union. Official announcement of ratification was not made until January 8, 1798, when President John Adams in a message to Congress stated that the Eleventh Amendment had been adopted by three-fourths of the states and that it "may now be deemed to be a part of the Constitution." In the interim South Carolina had ratified, and Tennessee had been admitted into the Union as the sixteenth state.
The several state legislatures ratified the Eleventh Amendment on the following dates: New York, March 27, 1794; Rhode Island, March 31, 1794; Connecticut, May 8, 1794; New Hampshire, June 16, 1794; Massachusetts, June 26, 1794; Vermont, between October 9 and November 9, 1794; Virginia, November 18, 1794; Georgia, November 29, 1794; Kentucky, December 7, 1794; Maryland, December 26, 1794; Delaware, January 23, 1795; North Carolina, February 7, 1795; South Carolina, December 4, 1797.
The Twelfth Amendment was proposed by Congress on December 9, 1803, when it passed the House having previously passed the Senate on December 2. It was not signed by the presiding officers of the House and Senate until December 12. It appears officially in 2 Stat. 306. Ratification was probably completed on June 15, 1804, when the legislature of the thirteenth state (New Hampshire) approved the Amendment, there being then seventeen states in the Union. The Governor of New Hampshire, however, vetoed this act of the legislature on June 20, and the act failed to pass again by two-thirds vote then required by the state constitution. Inasmuch as Article V of the Federal Constitution specifies that amendments shall become effective "when ratified by legislatures of three-fourths of the several States or by conventions in three-fourths thereof," it has been generally believed that an approval or veto by a governor is without significance. If the ratification by New Hampshire be deemed ineffective, then the Amendment became operative by Tennessee's ratification on July 27, 1804. On September 25, 1804, in a circular letter to the Governors of the several states, Secretary of State Madison declared the Amendment ratified by three-fourths of the states.
The several state legislatures ratified the Twelfth Amendment on the following dates: North Carolina, December 22, 1803; Maryland, December 24, 1803; Kentucky, December 27, 1803; Ohio, between December 5 and December 30, 1803; Virginia, between December 20, 1803 and February 3, 1804; Pennsylvania, January 5, 1804; Vermont, January 30, 1804; New York, February 10, 1804; New Jersey, February 22, 1804; Rhode Island, between February 27 and March 12, 1804; South Carolina, May 15, 1804; Georgia, May 19, 1804; New Hampshire, June 15, 1804; and Tennessee, July 27, 1804. The Amendment was rejected by Delaware on January 18, 1804, and by Connecticut at its session begun May 10, 1804. Massachusetts ratified this Amendment in 1961.
Civil War Amendments (Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments)[edit | edit source]
The Thirteenth Amendment was proposed by Congress on January 31, 1865 when it passed the House, having previously passed the Senate on April 8, 1864. It appears officially in 13 Stat. 567 under the date of February 1, 1865. Ratification was completed on December 6, 1865, when the legislature of the twenty-seventh state (Georgia) approved the Amendment, there being then thirty-six states in the Union. On December 18, 1865, Secretary of State William Seward certified that the Thirteenth Amendment had become a part of the Constitution.
The several state legislatures ratified the Thirteenth Amendment on the following dates: Illinois, February 1, 1865; Rhode Island, February 2, 1865; Michigan, February 2, 1865; Maryland, February 3, 1865; New York, February 3, 1865; West Virginia, February 3, 1865; Missouri, February 6, 1865; Maine, February 7, 1865; Kansas, February 7, 1865; Massachusetts, February 7, 1865; Pennsylvania, February 8, 1865; Virginia, February 9, 1865; Ohio, February 10, 1865; Louisiana, February 15 or 16, 1865; Indiana, February 16, 1865; Nevada, February 16, 1865; Minnesota, February 23, 1865; Wisconsin, February 24, 1865; Vermont, March 9, 1865 (date on which it was "approved" by Governor); Tennessee, April 7, 1865; Arkansas, April 14, 1865; Connecticut, May 4, 1865; New Hampshire, June 30, 1865; South Carolina, November 13, 1865; Alabama, December 2, 1865 (date on which it was "approved" by Provisional Governor); North Carolina, December 4, 1865; Georgia, December 6, 1865; Oregon, December 11, 1865; California, December 15, 1865; Florida, December 28, 1865 (Florida again ratified this Amendment on June 9, 1868, upon its adoption of a new constitution); Iowa, January 17, 1866; New Jersey, January 23, 1866 (after having rejected the Amendment on March 16, 1865); Texas, February 17, 1870; Delaware, February 12, 1901 (after having rejected the Amendment of February 8, 1865). The Amendment was rejected by Kentucky on February 24, 1865, and by Mississippi on December 2, 1865.
The Fourteenth Amendment was proposed by Congress on June 13, 1866 when it passed the House, having previously passed the Senate on June 8. It appears officially in 14 Stat. 358 under date of June 16, 1866. Ratification was probably completed on July 9, 1868, when the legislature of the twenty-eighth state (South Carolina or Louisiana) approved the Amendment, there being then thirty-seven states in the Union. However, Ohio and New Jersey had prior to that date "withdrawn" their earlier assent to this Amendment. Accordingly, Secretary of State William Seward on July 20, 1868, certified that the Amendment had become a part of the Constitution if the said withdrawals were ineffective. Congress on July 21, 1868, passed a joint resolution declaring the Amendment a part of the Constitution and directing the Secretary to promulgate it as such. On July 28, 1868, Secretary Seward certified without reservation that the Amendment was a part of the Constitution. In the interim, two other states, Alabama on July 13 and Georgia on July 21, 1868, had added their ratifications.
The several state legislatures ratified the Fourteenth Amendment on the following dates: Connecticut, June 30, 1866; New Hampshire, July 7, 1866; Tennessee, July 9, 1866; New Jersey, September 11, 1866 (the New Jersey Legislature on February 20, 1868, "withdrew" its consent to the ratification; the Governor vetoed that bill on March 5, 1868; and it was repassed over his veto on March 24, 1868); Oregon, September 19, 1866 (Oregon "withdrew" its consent on October 15, 1868); Vermont, October 30, 1866; New York, January 10, 1867; Ohio, January 11, 1867 (Ohio "withdrew" its consent on January 15, 1868); Illinois, January 15, 1867; West Virginia, January 16, 1867; Michigan, January 16, 1867; Kansas, January 17, 1867; Minnesota, January 17, 1867; Maine, January 19, 1867; Nevada, January 22, 1867; Indiana, January 23, 1867; Missouri, January 26, 1867 (date on which it was certified by the Missouri secretary of state); Rhode Island, February 7, 1867; Pennsylvania, February 12, 1867; Wisconsin, February 13, 1867 (actually passed February 7, but was not signed by legislative officers until February 13); Massachusetts, March 20, 1867; Nebraska, June 15, 1867; Iowa, March 9, 1868; Arkansas, April 6, 1868; Florida, June 9, 1868; North Carolina, July 2, 1868 (after having rejected the Amendment on December 13, 1866); Louisiana, July 9, 1868 (after having rejected the Amendment on February 6, 1867); South Carolina, July 8, 1868 (after having rejected the Amendment on December 20, 1866); Alabama, July 13, 1868 (date on which it was "approved" by the Governor); Georgia, July 21, 1868 (after having rejected the Amendment on November 9, 1866--Georgia ratified again on February 2, 1870); Virginia, October 8, 1869 (after having rejected the Amendment on January 9, 1867); Mississippi, January 17, 1870; Texas, February 18, 1870 (after having rejected the Amendment on October 27, 1866); Delaware, February 12, 1901 (after having rejected the Amendment February 7, 1867). The Amendment was rejected (and not subsequently ratified) by Kentucky on January 8, 1867. Maryland and California ratified this Amendment in 1959.
The Fifteenth Amendment was proposed by Congress on February 26, 1869 when it passed the Senate, having previously passed the House on February 25. It appears officially in 15 Stat. 346 under the date of February 27, 1869. Ratification was probably completed on February 3, 1870, when the legislature of the twenty-eighth state (Iowa) approved the Amendment, there being then thirty-seven states in the Union. However, New York had prior to that date "withdrawn" its earlier assent to this Amendment. Even if this withdrawal were effective, Nebraska's ratification on February 17, 1870, authorized Secretary of State Hamilton Fish's certification of March 30, 1870, that the Fifteenth Amendment had become a part of the Constitution.
The several state legislatures ratified the Fifteenth Amendment on the following dates: Nevada, March 1, 1869; West Virginia, March 3, 1869; North Carolina, March 5, 1869; Louisiana, March 5, 1869 (date on which it was "approved" by the Governor); Illinois, March 5, 1869; Michigan, March 5, 1869; Wisconsin, March 5, 1869; Maine, March 11, 1869; Massachusetts, March 12, 1869; South Carolina, March 15, 1869; Arkansas, March 15, 1869; Pennsylvania, March 25, 1869; New York, April 14, 1869 (New York "withdrew" its consent to the ratification on January 5, 1870); Indiana, March 14, 1869; Connecticut, May 19, 1869; Florida, June 14, 1869; New Hampshire, July 1, 1869; Virginia, October 8, 1869; Vermont, October 20, 1869; Alabama, November 16, 1869; Missouri, January 7, 1870 (Missouri had ratified the first section of the Fifteenth Amendment on March 1, 1869; it failed to include in its ratification the second section of the Amendment); Minnesota, January 13, 1870; Mississippi, January 17, 1870; Rhode Island, January 18, 1870; Kansas, January 19, 1870 (Kansas had by a defectively worded resolution previously ratified this Amendment on February 27, 1869); Ohio, January 27, 1870 (after having rejected the Amendment on May 4, 1869); Georgia, February 2, 1870; Iowa, February 3, 1870; Nebraska, February 17, 1870; Texas, February 18, 1870; New Jersey, February 15, 1871 (after having rejected the Amendment on February 7, 1870); Delaware, February 12, 1901 (date on which approved by Governor; Delaware had previously rejected the Amendment on March 18, 1869). The Amendment was rejected (and was not subsequently ratified) by Kentucky, Maryland, and Tennessee. California ratified this Amendment in 1962 and Oregon in 1959.
Early Twentieth Century Amendments (Sixteenth Through Twenty-Second Amendments)[edit | edit source]
Brackets enclosing an amendment number indicate that the number was not specifically assigned in the resolution proposing the amendment.
The Sixteenth Amendment was proposed by Congress on July 12, 1909 when it passed the House, having previously passed the Senate on July 5. It appears officially in 36 Stat. 184. Ratification was completed on February 3, 1913, when the legislature of the thirty-sixth state (Delaware, Wyoming, or New Mexico) approved the Amendment, there being then forty-eight states in the Union. On February 25, 1913, Secretary of State Henry Knox certified that this Amendment had become a part of the Constitution.
The several state legislatures ratified the Sixteenth Amendment on the following dates: Alabama, August 10, 1909; Kentucky, February 8, 1910; South Carolina, February 19, 1910; Illinois, March 1, 1910; Mississippi, March 7, 1910; Oklahoma, March 10, 1910; Maryland, April 8, 1910; Georgia, August 3, 1910; Texas, August 16, 1910; Ohio, January 19, 1911; Idaho, January 20, 1911; Oregon, January 23, 1911; Washington, January 26, 1911; Montana, January 27, 1911; Indiana, January 30, 1911; California, January 31, 1911; Nevada, January 31, 1911; South Dakota, February 1, 1911; Nebraska, February 9, 1911; North Carolina, February 11, 1911; Colorado, February 15, 1911; North Dakota, February 17, 1911; Michigan, February 23, 1911; Iowa, February 24, 1911; Kansas, March 2, 1911; Missouri, March 16, 1911; Maine, March 31, 1911; Tennessee, April 7, 1911; Arkansas, April 22, 1911 (after having rejected the Amendment at the session begun January 9, 1911); Wisconsin, May 16, 1911; New York, July 12, 1911; Arizona, April 3, 1912; Minnesota, June 11, 1912; Louisiana, June 28, 1912; West Virginia, January 31, 1913; Delaware, February 3, 1913; Wyoming, February 3, 1913; New Mexico, February 3, 1913; New Jersey, February 4, 1913; Vermont, February 19, 1913; Massachusetts, March 4, 1913; New Hampshire, March 7, 1913 (after having rejected the Amendment on March 2, 1911). The Amendment was rejected (and not subsequently ratified) by Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Utah.
The Seventeenth Amendment was proposed by Congress on May 13, 1912 when it passed the House, having previously passed the Senate on June 12, 1911. It appears officially in 37 Stat. 646. Ratification was completed on April 8, 1913, when the thirty-sixth state (Connecticut) approved the Amendment, there being then forty-eight states in the Union. On May 31, 1913, Secretary of State William Bryan certified that it had become a part of the Constitution.
The several state legislatures ratified the Seventeenth Amendment on the following dates: Massachusetts, May 22, 1912; Arizona, June 3, 1912; Minnesota, June 10, 1912; New York, January 15, 1913; Kansas, January 17, 1913; Oregon, January 23, 1913; North Carolina, January 25, 1913; California, January 28, 1913; Michigan, January 28, 1913; Iowa, January 30, 1913; Montana, January 30, 1913; Idaho, January 31, 1913; West Virginia, February 4, 1913; Colorado, February 5, 1913; Nevada, February 6, 1913; Texas, February 7, 1913; Washington, February 7, 1913; Wyoming, February 8, 1913; Arkansas, February 11, 1913; Illinois, February 13, 1913; North Dakota, February 14, 1913; Wisconsin, February 18, 1913; Indiana, February 19, 1913; New Hampshire, February 19, 1913; Vermont, February 19, 1913; South Dakota, February 19, 1913; Maine, February 20, 1913; Oklahoma, February 24, 1913; Ohio, February 25, 1913; Missouri, March 7, 1913; New Mexico, March 13, 1913; Nebraska, March 14, 1913; New Jersey, March 17, 1913; Tennessee, April 1, 1913; Pennsylvania, April 2, 1913; Connecticut, April 8, 1913; Louisiana, June 5, 1914. The Amendment was rejected by Utah on February 26, 1913.
The Eighteenth Amendment was proposed by Congress on December 18, 1917 when it passed the Senate, having previously passed the House on December 17. It appears officially in 40 Stat. 1059. Ratification was completed on January 16, 1919, when the thirty-sixth state approved the Amendment, there being then forty-eight states in the Union. On January 29, 1919, Acting Secretary of State Frank Polk certified that this amendment had been adopted by the requisite number of states. By its terms this Amendment did not become effective until one year after ratification.
The several state legislatures ratified the Eighteenth Amendment on the following dates: Mississippi, January 8, 1918; Virginia, January 11, 1918; Kentucky, January 14, 1918; North Dakota, January 28, 1918 (date on which approved by Governor); South Carolina, January 29, 1918; Maryland, February 13, 1918; Montana, February 19, 1918; Texas, March 4, 1918; Delaware, March 18, 1918; South Dakota, March 20, 1918; Massachusetts, April 2, 1918; Arizona, May 24, 1918; Georgia, June 26, 1918; Louisiana, August 9, 1918 (date on which approved by Governor); Florida, November 27, 1918; Michigan, January 2, 1919; Ohio, January 7, 1919; Oklahoma, January 7, 1919; Idaho, January 8, 1919; Maine, January 8, 1919; West Virginia, January 9, 1919; California, January 13, 1919; Tennessee, January 13, 1919; Washington, January 13, 1919; Arkansas, January 14, 1919; Kansas, January 14, 1919; Illinois, January 14, 1919; Indiana, January 14, 1919; Alabama, January 15, 1919; Colorado, January 15, 1919; Iowa, January 15, 1919; New Hampshire, January 15, 1919; Oregon, January 15, 1919; Nebraska, January 16, 1919; North Carolina, January 16, 1919; Utah, January 16, 1919; Missouri, January 16, 1919; Wyoming, January 16, 1919; Minnesota, January 17, 1919; Wisconsin, January 17, 1919; New Mexico, January 20, 1919; Nevada, January 21, 1919; Pennsylvania, February 25, 1919; New Jersey, March 9, 1922; New York, January 29, 1919; Vermont, January 29, 1919.
The Nineteenth Amendment was proposed by Congress on June 4, 1919 when it passed the Senate, having previously passed the House on May 21. It appears officially in 41 Stat. 362. Ratification was completed on August 18, 1920, when the thirty-sixth state (Tennessee) approved the amendment, there being then forty-eight states in the Union. On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified that it had become a part of the Constitution.
The several state legislatures ratified the Nineteenth Amendment on the following dates: Illinois, June 10, 1919 (readopted June 17, 1919); Michigan, June 10, 1919; Wisconsin, June 10, 1919; Kansas, June 16, 1919; New York, June 16, 1919; Ohio, June 16, 1919; Pennsylvania, June 24, 1919; Massachusetts, June 25, 1919; Texas, June 28, 1919; Iowa, July 2, 1919 (date on which approved by Governor); Missouri, July 3, 1919; Arkansas, July 28, 1919; Montana, August 2, 1919 (date on which approved by Governor); Nebraska, August 2. 1919; Minnesota, September 8, 1919; New Hampshire, September 10, 1919 (date on which approved by Governor); Utah, October 2, 1919; California, November 1, 1919; Maine, November 5, 1919; North Dakota, December 1, 1919; South Dakota, December 4, 1919 (date on which certified); Colorado, December 15, 1919 (date on which approved by Governor); Kentucky, January 6, 1920; Rhode Island, January 6, 1920; Oregon, January 13, 1920; Indiana, January 16, 1920; Wyoming, January 27, 1920; Nevada, February 7, 1920; New Jersey, February 9, 1920; Idaho, February 11, 1920; Arizona, February 12, 1920; New Mexico, February 21, 1920 (date on which approved by Governor); Oklahoma, February 28, 1920; West Virginia, March 10, 1920 (confirmed September 21, 1920); Washington, March 22, 1920; Tennessee, August 18, 1920; Vermont, February 8, 1921. The Amendment was rejected by Georgia on July 24, 1919; by Alabama, on September 22, 1919; by South Carolina on January 29, 1920; by Virginia on February 12, 1920; by Maryland on February 24, 1920; by Mississippi on March 29, 1920; by Louisiana on July 1, 1920. This Amendment was subsequently ratified by Virginia in 1952, Alabama in 1953, Florida in 1969, and Georgia and Louisiana in 1970.
The Twentieth Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 2, 1932 when it passed the Senate, having previously passed the House on March 1. It appears officially in 47 Stat. 745. Ratification was completed on January 23, 1933, when the thirty-sixth state approved the Amendment, there being then forty-eight states in the Union. On February 6, 1933, Secretary of State Henry Stimson certified that it had become a part of the Constitution.
The several state legislatures ratified the Twentieth Amendment on the following dates: Virginia, March 4, 1932; New York, March 11, 1932; Mississippi, March 16, 1932; Arkansas March 17, 1932; Kentucky, March 17, 1932; New Jersey, March 21, 1932; South Carolina, March 25, 1932; Michigan, March 31, 1932; Maine, April 1, 1932; Rhode Island, April 14, 1932; Illinois, April 21, 1932; Louisiana, June 22, 1932; West Virginia, July 30, 1932; Pennsylvania, August 11, 1932; Indiana, August 15, 1932; Texas, September 7, 1932; Alabama, September 13, 1932; California, January 3, 1933; North Carolina, January 5, 1933; North Dakota, January 9, 1933; Minnesota, January 12, 1933; Arizona, January 13, 1933; Montana, January 13, 1933; Nebraska, January 13, 1933; Oklahoma, January 13, 1933; Kansas, January 16, 1933; Oregon, January 16, 1933; Delaware, January 19, 1933; Washington, January 19, 1933; Wyoming, January 19, 1933; Iowa, January 20, 1933; South Dakota, January 20, 1933; Tennessee, January 20, 1933; Idaho, January 21, 1933; New Mexico, January 21, 1933; Georgia, January 23, 1933; Missouri, January 23, 1933; Ohio, January 23, 1933; Utah, January 23, 1933; Colorado, January 24, 1933; Massachusetts, January 24, 1933; Wisconsin, January 24, 1933; Nevada, January 26, 1933; Connecticut, January 27, 1933; New Hampshire, January 31, 1933; Vermont, February 2, 1933; Maryland, March 24, 1933; Florida, April 26, 1933.
The Twenty-First Amendment was proposed by Congress on February 20, 1933 when it passed the House, having previously passed the Senate on February 16. It appears officially in 47 Stat. 1625. Ratification was completed on December 5, 1933, when the thirty-sixth state (Utah) approved the Amendment, there being then forty-eight states in the Union. On December 5, 1933, Acting Secretary of State William Phillips certified that it had been adopted by the requisite number of states.
The several state conventions ratified the Twenty-first Amendment on the following dates: Michigan, April 10, 1933; Wisconsin, April 25, 1933; Rhode Island, May 8, 1933; Wyoming, May 25, 1933; New Jersey, June 1, 1933; Delaware, June 24, 1933; Indiana, June 26, 1933; Massachusetts, June 26, 1933; New York, June 27, 1933; Illinois, July 10, 1933; Iowa, July 10, 1933; Connecticut, July 11, 1933; New Hampshire, July 11, 1933; California, July 24, 1933; West Virginia, July 25, 1933; Arkansas, August 1, 1933; Oregon, August 7, 1933; Alabama, August 8, 1933; Tennessee, August 11, 1933; Missouri, August 29, 1933; Arizona, September 5, 1933; Nevada, September 5, 1933; Vermont, September 23, 1933; Colorado, September 26, 1933; Washington, October 3, 1933; Minnesota, October 10, 1933; Idaho, October 17, 1933; Maryland, October 18, 1933; Virginia, October 25, 1933; New Mexico, November 2, 1933; Florida, November 14, 1933; Texas, November 24, 1933; Kentucky, November 27, 1933; Ohio, December 5, 1933; Pennsylvania, December 5, 1933; Utah, December 5, 1933; Maine, December 6, 1933; Montana, August 6, 1934. The Amendment was rejected by a convention in the State of South Carolina, on December 4, 1933. The electorate of the State of North Carolina voted against holding a convention at a general election held on November 7, 1933.
The Twenty-Second Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 24, 1947 having passed the House on March 21, 1947, having previously passed the Senate on March 12, 1947. It appears officially in 61 Stat. 959. Ratification was completed on February 27, 1951, when the thirty-sixth state (Minnesota) approved the Amendment, there being then forty-eight states in the Union. On March 1, 1951, Jess Larson, Administrator of General Services, certified that it had been adopted by the requisite number of states.
A total of forty-one state legislatures ratified the Twenty-Second Amendment on the following dates: Maine, March 31, 1947; Michigan, March 31, 1947; Iowa, April 1, 1947; Kansas, April 1, 1947; New Hampshire, April 1, 1947; Delaware, April 2, 1947; Illinois, April 3, 1947; Oregon, April 3, 1947; Colorado, April 12, 1947; California, April 15, 1947; New Jersey, April 15, 1947; Vermont, April 15, 1947; Ohio, April 16, 1947; Wisconsin, April 16, 1947; Pennsylvania, April 29, 1947; Connecticut, May 21, 1947; Missouri, May 22, 1947; Nebraska, May 23, 1947; Virginia, January 28, 1948; Mississippi, February 12, 1948; New York, March 9, 1948; South Dakota, January 21, 1949; North Dakota, February 25, 1949; Louisiana, May 17, 1950; Montana, January 25, 1951; Indiana, January 29, 1951; Idaho, January 30, 1951; New Mexico, February 12, 1951; Wyoming, February 12, 1951; Arkansas, February 15, 1951; Georgia, February 17, 1915; Tennessee, February 20, 1951; Texas, February 22, 1951; Utah, February 26, 1951; Nevada, February 26, 1951; Minnesota, February 27, 1951; North Carolina, February 28, 1951; South Carolina, March 13, 1951; Maryland, March 14, 1951; Florida, April 16, 1951; and Alabama, May 4, 1951.
Post-War Amendments (Twenty-Third Through Twenty-Seventh Amendments)[edit | edit source]
Brackets enclosing an amendment number indicate that the number was not specifically assigned in the resolution proposing the amendment.
The Twenty-Third Amendment was proposed by Congress on June 16, 1960 when it passed the Senate, having previously passed the House on June 14. It appears officially in 74 Stat. 1057. Ratification was completed on March 29, 1961, when the thirty-eighth state (Ohio) approved the Amendment, there being then fifty states in the Union. On April 3, 1961, John L. Moore, Administrator of General Services, certified that it had been adopted by the requisite number of states.
The several state legislatures ratified the Twenty-Third Amendment on the following dates: Hawaii, June 23, 1960; Massachusetts, August 22, 1960; New Jersey, December 19, 1960; New York, January 17, 1961; California, January 19, 1961; Oregon, January 27, 1961; Maryland, January 30, 1961; Idaho, January 31, 1961; Maine, January 31, 1961; Minnesota, January 31, 1961; New Mexico, February 1, 1961; Nevada, February 2, 1961; Montana, February 6, 1961; Colorado, February 8, 1961; Washington, February 9, 1961; West Virginia, February 1961; Alaska, February 10, 1961; Wyoming, February 13, 1961; South Dakota, February 14, 1961; Delaware, February 20, 1961; Utah, February 21, 1961; Wisconsin, February 21, 1961; Pennsylvania, February 28, 1961; Indiana, March 3, 1961; North Dakota, March 3, 1961; Tennessee, March 6, 1961; Michigan, March 8, 1961; Connecticut, March 9, 1961; Arizona, March 10, 1961; Illinois, March 14, 1961; Nebraska, March 15, 1961; Vermont, March 15, 1961; Iowa, March 16, 1961; Missouri, March 20, 1961; Oklahoma, March 21, 1961; Rhode Island, March 22, 1961; Kansas, March 29, 1961; Ohio, March 29, 1961; and New Hampshire, March 30, 1961.
The Twenty-Fourth Amendment was proposed by Congress on September 14, 1962, having passed the House on August 27, 1962. and having previously passed the Senate on March 27, 1962. It appears officially in 76 Stat. 1259. Ratification was completed on January 23, 1964, when the thirty-eighth state (South Dakota) approved the Amendment, there being then fifty states in the Union. On February 4, 1964, Bernard L. Boutin, Administrator of General Services, certified that it had been adopted by the requisite number of states. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed this certificate.
Thirty-eight state legislatures ratified the Twenty-Fourth Amendment on the following dates: Illinois, November 14, 1962; New Jersey, December 3, 1962; Oregon, January 25, 1963; Montana, January 28, 1963; West Virginia, February 1, 1963; New York, February 4, 1963; Maryland, February 6, 1963; California, February 7, 1963; Alaska, February 11, 1963; Rhode Island, February 14, 1963; Indiana, February 19, 1963; Michigan, February 20, 1963; Utah, February 20, 1963; Colorado, February 21, 1963; Minnesota, February 27, 1963; Ohio, February 27, 1963; New Mexico, March 5, 1963; Hawaii, March 6, 1963; North Dakota, March 7, 1963; Idaho, March 8, 1963; Washington, March 14, 1963; Vermont, March 15, 1963; Nevada, March 19, 1963; Connecticut, March 20, 1963; Tennessee, March 21, 1963; Pennsylvania, March 25, 1963; Wisconsin, March 26, 1963; Kansas, March 28, 1963; Massachusetts, March 28, 1963; Nebraska, April 4, 1963; Florida, April 18, 1963; Iowa, April 24, 1963; Delaware, May 1, 1963; Missouri, May 13, 1963; New Hampshire, June 16, 1963; Kentucky, June 27, 1963; Maine, January 16, 1964; South Dakota, January 23, 1964.
The Twenty-Fifth Amendment was proposed by the Eighty-Ninth Congress by Senate Joint Resolution No. 1, which was approved by the Senate on February 19, 1965, and by the House of Representatives, in amended form, on April 13, 1965. The House of Representatives agreed to a Conference Report on June 30, 1965, and the Senate agreed to the Conference Report on July 6, 1965. It was declared by the Administrator of General Services, on February 23, 1967, to have been ratified.
This Amendment was ratified by the following states: Nebraska, July 12, 1965; Wisconsin, July 13, 1965; Oklahoma, July 16, 1965; Massachusetts, August 9, 1965; Pennsylvania, August 18, 1965; Kentucky, September 15, 1965; Arizona, September 22, 1965; Michigan, October 5, 1965; Indiana, October 20, 1965; California, October 21, 1965; Arkansas, November 4, 1965; New Jersey, November 29, 1965; Delaware, December 7, 1965; Utah, January 17, 1966; West Virginia, January 20, 1966; Maine, January 24, 1966; Rhode Island, January 28, 1966; Colorado, February 3, 1966; New Mexico, February 3, 1966; Kansas, February 8, 1966; Vermont, February 10, 1966; Alaska, February 18, 1966; Idaho, March 2, 1966; Hawaii, March 3, 1966; Virginia, March 8, 1966; Mississippi, March 10, 1966; New York, March 14, 1966; Maryland, March 23, 1966; Missouri, March 30, 1966; New Hampshire, June 13, 1966; Louisiana, July 5, 1966; Tennessee, January 12, 1967, Wyoming, January 25, 1967; Washington, January 26, 1967; Iowa, January 26, 1967; Oregon, February 2, 1967; Minnesota, February 10, 1967; Nevada, February 10, 1967; Connecticut, February 14, 1967; Montana, February 15, 1967; South Dakota, March 6, 1967; Ohio, March 7, 1967; Alabama, March 14, 1967; North Carolina, March 22, 1967; Illinois, March 22, 1967; Texas, April 25, 1967; Florida, May 25, 1967.
Publication of the certifying statement of the Administrator of General Services that the Amendment had become valid was made on February 25, 1967.
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 23, 1971, upon passage by the House of Representatives, the Senate having previously passed an identical resolution on March 10, 1971. It appears officially in 85 Stat. 825. Ratification was completed on July 1, 1971, when action by the legislature of the thirty-eighth state, North Carolina, was concluded, and the Administrator of the General Services Administration officially certified it to have been duly ratified on July 5, 1971.
As of the publication of this volume, forty-two states had ratified this Amendment: Connecticut, March 23, 1971; Delaware, March 23, 1971; Minnesota, March 23, 1971; Tennessee, March 23, 1971; Washington, March 23, 1971; Hawaii, March 24, 1971; Massachusetts, March 24, 1971; Montana, March 29, 1971; Arkansas, March 30, 1971; Idaho, March 30, 1971; Iowa, March 30, 1971; Nebraska, April 2, 1971; New Jersey, April 3, 1971; Kansas, April 7, 1971; Michigan, April 7, 1971; Alaska, April 8, 1971; Maryland, April 8, 1971; Indiana, April 8, 1971; Maine, April 9, 1971; Vermont, April 16, 1971; Louisiana, April 17, 1971; California, April 19, 1971; Colorado, April 27, 1971; Pennsylvania, April 27, 1971; Texas, April 27, 1971; South Carolina, April 28, 1971; West Virginia, April 28, 1971; New Hampshire, May 13, 1971; Arizona, May 14, 1971; Rhode Island, May 27, 1971; New York, June 2, 1971; Oregon, June 4, 1971; Missouri, June 14, 1971; Wisconsin, June 22, 1971; Illinois, June 29, 1971; Alabama, June 30, 1971; Ohio, June 30, 1971; North Carolina, July 1, 1971; Oklahoma, July 1, 1971; Virginia, July 8, 1971; Wyoming, July 8, 1971; Georgia, October 4, 1971.
The Twenty-Seventh Amendment was proposed by Congress on September 25, 1789 when it passed the Senate, having previously passed the House on September 24. It appears officially in 1 Stat. 97. Having received in 1789-1791 only six state ratifications, the proposal then failed of ratification while ten of the twelve sent to the states by Congress were ratified and proclaimed and became the Bill of Rights. The provision was proclaimed as having been ratified and having become the Twenty-Seventh Amendment, when Michigan ratified on May 7, 1992, there being fifty states in the Union. Proclamation was by the Archivist of the United States, pursuant to 1 U.S.C. § 106b, on May 19, 1992. It was also proclaimed by votes of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The several state legislatures ratified the proposal on the following dates: Maryland, December 19, 1789; North Carolina, December 22, 1789; South Carolina, January 19, 1790; Delaware, January 28, 1790; Vermont, November 3, 1791; Virginia, December 15, 1791; Ohio, May 6, 1873; Wyoming, March 6, 1978; Maine, April 27, 1983; Colorado, April 22, 1984; South Dakota, February 1985; New Hampshire, March 7, 1985; Arizona, April 3, 1985; Tennessee, May 28, 1985; Oklahoma, July 10, 1985; New Mexico, February 14, 1986; Indiana, February 24, 1986; Utah, February 25, 1986; Arkansas, March 13, 1987; Montana, March 17, 1987; Connecticut, May 13, 1987; Wisconsin, July 15, 1987; Georgia, February 2, 1988; West Virginia, March 10, 1988; Louisiana, July 7, 1988; Iowa, February 9, 1989; Idaho, March 23, 1989; Nevada, May 25, 1989; Kansas, April 5, 1990; Florida, May 31, 1990; North Dakota, Mary 25, 1991; Alabama, May 5, 1992; Missouri, May 5, 1992; Michigan, May 7, 1992. New Jersey subsequently ratified on May 7, 1992.
Proposed Amendments Not Ratified by the States[edit | edit source]
During the course of our history, in addition to the twenty-seven Amendments which have been ratified by the required three-fourths of the states, six other amendments have been submitted to the states but have not been ratified by them.
Beginning with the proposed Eighteenth Amendment, Congress has customarily included a provision requiring ratification within seven years from the time of the submission to the states. The Supreme Court in Coleman v. Miller, declared that the question of the reasonableness of the time within which a sufficient number of states must act is a political question to be determined by Congress.
In 1789, at the time of the submission of the Bill of Rights, twelve proposed Amendments were submitted to the states. Of these, Articles III-XII were ratified and became the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Proposed Articles I and II were not ratified with these ten, but, in 1992, Article II was proclaimed as ratified, 203 years later. The following is the text of proposed Article I:
Article I. After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.
Thereafter, in the 2d session of the 11th Congress, the Congress proposed the following amendment to the Constitution relating to acceptance by citizens of the United States of titles of nobility from any foreign government.
The proposed amendment which was not ratified by three-fourths of the states reads as follows:
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of both Houses concurring), That the following section be submitted to the legislatures of the several states, which, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the states, shall be valid and binding, as a part of the constitution of the United States.If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honour, or shall, without the consent of Congress, accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them.
During the second session of the 36th Congress on March 2, 1861, the following proposed amendment to the Constitution relating to slavery was signed by the President. The President's signature is considered unnecessary because of the constitutional provision that upon the concurrence of two-thirds of both Houses of Congress the proposal shall be submitted to the states and shall be ratified by three-fourths of the states.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following article be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three-fourths of said Legislatures, shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution, viz:Article ThirteenNo amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.
In more recent times, only three proposed amendments have not been ratified by three-fourths of the states. The first is the proposed child-labor amendment, which was submitted to the states during the 1st session of the 68th Congress in June 1924, as follows:
Joint Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of the United StatesResolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States, shall be valid to all intents and purposes as a part of the Constitution:ArticleSection 1. The Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under 18 years of age.Section 2. The power of the several States is unimpaired by this article except that the operation of State laws shall be suspended to the extent necessary to give effect to legislation enacted by the Congress.
The second proposed amendment to have failed of ratification is the Equal Rights Amendment, which formally died on June 30, 1982, after a disputed congressional extension of the original seven-year period for ratification.
House Joint Resolution 208Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to equal rights for men and women.Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), ThatThe following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission by the Congress:Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
The third proposed amendment relating to representation in Congress for the District of Columbia failed of ratification, sixteen States having ratified as of the 1985 expiration date for the ratification period.
House Joint Resolution 554Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission by the Congress:ArticleSection 1. For purposes of representation in the Congress, election of the President and Vice President, and article V of this Constitution, the District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall be treated as though it were a State.Sec. 2. The exercise of the rights and powers conferred under this article shall be by the people of the District constituting the seat of government, and as shall be provided by the Congress.Sec. 3. The twenty-third article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.Sec. 4. This article shall be inoperative, unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.
Constitution Annotated Methodology[edit | edit source]
Overview of Constitution Annotated Methodology[edit | edit source]
This essay explains the methodology for the current edition of the Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation (commonly known as the Constitution Annotated)--that is, the rules and principles that dictate the organization and construction of the document. Consistent with the mission of the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service, the Constitution Annotated provides an objective, comprehensive, authoritative, non-partisan, and accessible treatment of one of the most--if not the most--contentious legal issues in modern American society: how to read and interpret the Constitution. As the only constitutional law treatise formally authorized by federal law, the Constitution Annotated functions as the official Constitution of record, describing how the Constitution has been construed by the Supreme Court and other authoritative constitutional actors since the drafting and ratification of the Nation's Founding document. In particular, the Constitution Annotated provides annotations addressing the historical origins and interpretation of each article and amendment of the Constitution.
Producing such a treatise is a daunting task. While the Constitution and its current Amendments contain a little more than 7,500 words, a seemingly endless stream of commentaries has attempted to explain the document's meaning and reach. The various sources discussing the Constitution provide a vast array of modern interpretations of the Constitution--and an immense challenge to any attempt to synthesize these sources in a single treatise. A further challenge is that expositions of the Constitution, like other legal works, can be inaccessible to many readers because they are intended for a narrow audience of attorneys specializing in "constitutional law"--that is, the body of principles and rules derived from the Constitution. Also, perhaps because American constitutional law raises certain fundamental issues that define aspects of the U.S. political system, discussions of constitutional law often approach the Constitution with a distinct point of view that may obfuscate, politicize, or simply ignore key issues. In addition, the Constitution Annotated confronts the unique challenge that it is not intended to be a static document; federal law requires that it be updated regularly by the Librarian of Congress, who has delegated this responsibility to the Congressional Research Service.
With these challenges in mind, this essay seeks to provide a transparent methodology for the drafting of the Constitution Annotated and, in particular, for selecting sources for inclusion in the Constitution Annotated and organizing its content. It is anticipated that this methodology will guide future updates and revisions of the Constitution Annotated, ensuring a consistent approach over time. However, keeping in mind that "[a] foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," certain departures from this methodology may be made in certain cases in either the current edition or in future editions.
Information Included in the Constitution Annotated[edit | edit source]
One key aspect of the methodology for the Constitution Annotated is its criteria for determining what source materials are to be considered in drafting its annotations. Lacking such criteria, the Constitution Annotated would risk being inconsistent in its treatment of particular topics, thereby undermining its overall goal of providing objective, comprehensive, coherent, accessible, and authoritative information about how the Constitution has been construed. The following essays explain the overarching rules for determining when to incorporate particular types of sources within the Constitution Annotated.
Supreme Court Decisions[edit | edit source]
Treatment of Supreme Court Cases Generally[edit | edit source]
Supreme Court decisions addressing questions of constitutional law are primary sources of constitutional law, commonly used in compiling the Constitution Annotated. After all, the Court plays a prominent role in interpreting the Constitution, and no constitutional law treatise can credibly exist without a robust discussion of the Supreme Court's interpretations of the Constitution. Moreover, the statute underlying the publication of the Constitution Annotated requires that the Librarian of Congress provide "annotations of decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States . . . construing provisions of the Constitution" through the end of the October 1971 term, with biennial updates and decennial editions thereafter.
Specifically, this federal statute can be seen to impose three interrelated constraints upon the sources consulted in producing the Constitution Annotated. First, in keeping with the language regarding "decisions" of the Court, the Constitution Annotated focuses primarily (but not exclusively) upon the Supreme Court's majority or plurality opinions--i.e., the ultimate determinations and dispositions on a matter by the Supreme Court. Separate opinions from individual Justices found in concurrences to and dissents from majority decisions are not, as a general rule, discussed in detail in the Constitution Annotated unless they (1) provide insight into the majority opinion (e.g., explain something that might be opaque from the majority opinion alone); or (2) are eventually adopted by a majority of the Court or otherwise influence future Court decisions. Second, the authorizing statute requires a discussion of decisions that directly "constru[e] provisions of the Constitution." As such, the treatise's focus is on constitutional law. This restriction is at times challenging because constitutional law often serves as the foundation for other areas of law. However, as a rule, the Constitution Annotated does not discuss other areas of law unless doing so is necessary to an understanding of specific constitutional issues. Third, while the statute mandates annotations of the Court's constitutional decisions through "the end of the October 1971 term," it also contemplates the Constitution Annotated being updated on an ongoing basis to include cases from subsequent Court terms. As a result, the Constitution Annotated generally differs in its treatment of cases from before the October 1971 term, and those from the October 1971 term and subsequent terms. As a rule, decisions from earlier terms are noted, if at all, only in background discussions, while decisions from later terms are noted in the text, in a footnote, or in a table appended to the Constitution Annotated.
Of course, the statutory mandate from Congress to annotate decisions of the Supreme Court "construing provisions of the Constitution" begs the question of what it means for the Court to interpret a constitutional provision. As one of the central actors in interpreting the Constitution, the Supreme Court regularly issues opinions that discuss, and often provide the final word on, how particular provisions of the Constitution are to be understood. Generally, the question of whether to include a Court decision in the Constitution Annotated is relatively easy, as when the Court asks whether particular provisions of the Constitution permit certain acts by the political branches. Other decisions can be comfortably excluded because they focus on questions other than constitutional interpretation (e.g., federal common law practices; questions of statutory interpretation that do not touch on matters of constitutional law). There are, however, certain "gray" or unsettled areas of constitutional law where the choice of whether to include a decision, or even whether there is any Court decision to include, is not so obvious. These areas frequently involve preemption, qualified immunity, habeas corpus, statutory claims, and common law doctrines, each of which is discussed separately in the essays that follow.
Preemption Cases[edit | edit source]
Cases determining whether federal law displaces state law are, at bottom, constitutional law cases insofar as they at least implicitly involve the Supremacy Clause and its mandate that the laws of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution "shall be the supreme Law of the Land." However, preemption cases, by their nature, tend to focus on the meaning of particular federal and state laws and are typically resolved by focusing on a specific federal statute and the intent of the Congress that enacted the statute. Many Supreme Court preemption cases do not discuss generally applicable principles of preemption or the broader meaning of the Supremacy Clause. While including preemption cases that broadly shed light on the doctrine of preemption, the Constitution Annotated generally does not include cases involving the application of preemption with respect to specific statutory schemes.
Qualified Immunity Cases[edit | edit source]
In cases where plaintiffs seek monetary damages from federal or state government officials, the Supreme Court, in a doctrine commonly referred to as "qualified immunity," has held that liability exists only when the government official's conduct violates "clearly established statutory or constitutional rights." Determining whether a constitutional right is "clearly established" is related to determining what that constitutional right entails. However, these two inquiries are conceptually distinct. The Court has held that a court does not necessarily need to determine whether a constitutional right has been violated in order to afford a government official qualified immunity. Moreover, for a constitutional right to be "clearly established," "[t]he contours of th[at] right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right." As a consequence, a ruling that a government official is entitled to qualified immunity may provide little insight into the scope of the underlying constitutional right. Only qualified immunity cases that inform the general understanding of the scope of particular constitutional rights are, as a rule, included in the Constitution Annotated.
Federal Habeas Claims and State Court Convictions[edit | edit source]
Pursuant to the relevant provisions of the federal habeas statute, a federal court may not issue a writ of habeas corpus--that is, an order releasing a person from imprisonment or detention--with respect to any claim that was adjudicated by a state court unless the underlying state court decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." A federal habeas petition will generally be granted as a result of a constitutional error only if the state court: (1) arrived "at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law or . . . decide[d] a case differently than [the] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts;" or (2) "identifie[d] the correct governing legal principle from [the] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." As a consequence of the governing standard in habeas cases, the Supreme Court may not opine on the scope of the underlying constitutional right, but instead merely address whether the state court erred in its assessment of the constitutional right. Such cases are, as a rule, generally not included in the Constitution Annotated.
Statutory Claims[edit | edit source]
While the Court's decisions opining on how to construe a statute are generally excluded from the Constitution Annotated, certain cases involving statutory interpretation may be included insofar as constitutional considerations influence the Court's approach to construing legislative text. Some such cases involve the doctrine of constitutional avoidance--i.e., the long-standing interpretative rule followed by the Supreme Court that counsels that when a particular reading of a statute would raise serious doubts about the statute's constitutionality, a court interpreting the statute must "first ascertain whether a construction of the statute is fairly possible by which the question may be avoided." Other cases involve the construction of statutes intended to parallel or supplement specific constitutional rights. However, as a rule, such cases are included only when the interpretation of the statute is inextricably intertwined with the interpretation of a constitutional provision. Two examples may serve to illustrate this.
The first involves the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), which Congress enacted in the wake of the Court's 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith repudiating the methodology used in earlier cases to analyze claims asserting a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. These earlier cases had adopted a balancing test--often referred to as the "strict scrutiny" test--that weighed whether the challenged action imposed a "substantial burden" on the practice of religion and, if so, whether the challenged action served a "compelling government interest." However, the Smith Court rejected that approach, allowing generally applicable laws to apply to religious practices without being subject to strict scrutiny. In response, Congress enacted RFRA, which prohibits the Federal Government, as a matter of federal statutory law, from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion unless the government demonstrates that the challenged action serves a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. As a result, while the Court's modern RFRA jurisprudence touches on issues of religious liberty, the test imposed by RFRA is distinct from even the pre-Smith Free Exercise case law and, at bottom, does not interpret the Constitution. As a consequence, while the Constitution Annotated references certain RFRA cases, it does not purport to address RFRA cases in detail.
The second example involves the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (Wiretap Act). This Act authorizes a judge (after receiving an application from the government) to enter an order allowing for the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications upon finding "probable cause" that an individual is committing, has committed, or is about to commit specified offenses. The Act does not define what is meant by "probable cause." However, courts construing the probable cause requirement in the Wiretap Act have concluded that it is "co-extensive with the Constitutional requirements embodied" in the Fourth Amendment. Thus, if the Court were to rule that the Wiretap Act's probable cause requirement was satisfied in a particular case, this ruling would warrant inclusion in the Constitution Annotated if it rests on grounds that inform our understanding of the Fourth Amendment's probable cause requirement.
Common Law Doctrines[edit | edit source]
In some cases, the Supreme Court's rulings expound upon long-established, judge-made doctrines widely referred to as the common law. Some of these common law doctrines have their origins in constitutional norms, such as the rules regarding prudential standing and the various doctrines requiring the suspension of federal court proceedings in favor of state court proceedings. Others have little to do with the Constitution and are justified by more mundane concerns, such as the need for judicial efficiency or the lack of a statute or rule to resolve an existing legal issue. Cases addressing common law doctrines with constitutional underpinnings are included in the Constitution Annotated insofar as they help to elucidate the scope of the relevant constitutional provision.
Lower Court Decisions[edit | edit source]
Treatment of Lower Court Decisions Generally[edit | edit source]
Because the Supreme Court hears only a small percentage of the cases in which its review is sought (and in many cases, parties do not even seek Court review), most litigation over the meaning of the Constitution does not reach the High Court. This leaves many constitutional matters to be decided by the lower federal courts and, in particular, the thirteen federal courts of appeal. State courts can also play a significant role in construing the U.S. Constitution and any comparable provisions in the state's constitution. While many cases come to the Supreme Court directly from state courts of last resort, state courts usually have the last word on the meaning of state law. Given the statutory requirement to annotate the Supreme Court's constitutional decisions, as well as considerations of space, the Constitution Annotated makes only limited references to lower court decisions. As a general rule, such decisions are not included unless they are particularly influential or address significant issues not addressed by the High Court.
Lower Court Rulings[edit | edit source]
From time to time, lower court rulings on constitutional law are widely recognized by constitutional scholars to have had a lasting influence on interpretations of the Constitution, perhaps even coming to be adopted or relied upon by the Supreme Court. Examples of influential lower court rulings include Judge Learned Hand's opinion on the First Amendment and incitement in Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten, and Judge Frank Easterbrook's opinion on the First Amendment and prohibitions on certain sexually explicit material in American Booksellers Ass'n, Inc. v. Hudnut. Such influential lower court rulings, which may include opinions by future or retired Supreme Court Justices, are included in the Constitution Annotated.
Subjects Lacking Supreme Court Coverage[edit | edit source]
In cases where the Supreme Court has not spoken on the precise issue, but a lower court has, relevant lower court decisions may be included in the Constitution Annotated. For example, the Supreme Court has rarely interpreted the Third Amendment. Accordingly, the Constitution Annotated discussion of the Constitution's prohibition on the quartering of soldiers notes a prominent lower court ruling on the issue. Discussion of such "gap-filling" lower court opinions is intended to elucidate issues that the Supreme Court has not addressed, but is circumscribed and included only for purposes of noting open questions and apparent limitations in the Supreme Court's current doctrine.
Non-Judicial Sources of Constitutional Meaning[edit | edit source]
The Judiciary is not the only branch of government with a role in interpreting the Constitution. Since the Nation's Founding, the Legislative and Executive Branches, through their respective officers, have continuously participated in construing the Constitution in both formal and informal ways, providing a rich history that informs modern interpretations of the Constitution. In addition, various non-governmental actors--from academic legal scholars to "ordinary" citizens--have at times played a pivotal role in interpreting the Constitution and the basic norms that underlie it.
Interpretations of the Constitution outside the courts occur in three primary contexts. First, non-judicial actors may opine on the meaning of the Constitution with respect to matters that could be, or have been, subject to judicial review. For example, in the wake of the Court's 1989 decision in Texas v. Johnson, holding that a Texas law criminalizing the burning of the U.S. flag violated the First Amendment, Congress enacted a similar federal law, functionally voicing its disagreement with the Court's interpretation of the First Amendment in Johnson. Second, non-judicial constitutional interpretations may occur in contexts that are not generally subject to judicial review. Court-made doctrines, like the political question doctrine and the constitutional standing doctrine, can result in entire provisions of the Constitution being interpreted solely by the political branches or non-governmental actors. For example, the Court has held that the propriety of a Senate trial of impeachment is a political question that cannot be resolved by a federal court. As a result, questions regarding the limits of the power to try impeachments are heavily influenced by both long-standing practices of the Senate, as well as new developments that prompt changes in such practices. Third and finally, non-judicial interpretations of the Constitution may occur in areas where, while not wholly immune from judicial review, the judiciary has tended to defer to the political branches. Presidential authority over foreign affairs is an example of such a field.
Because nearly infinite understandings of the Constitution exist outside of formal court opinions, the use of non-judicial sources in the Constitution Annotated must be limited in some way, in part, to ensure that the focus of the Constitution Annotated remains upon the Supreme Court decisions noted in the statutory mandate. In the interests of balancing these concerns, the Constitution Annotated generally limits its usage of non-judicial sources to situations where (1) judicial interpretation has no role, or a very limited role, in constitutional construction, or (2) non-judicial actors provide an important interstitial role in informing the general understanding of specific constitutional provisions. Examples of such topics include:
presidents' pardon decisions, presidents' proposing national legislation, presidents' vetoing legislation, the deliberations of members of Congress over the standards for impeachment and removal, representatives' and senators' votes for and against legislation, presidents' negotiating treaties, senators' determining whether to ratify treaties, presidents' standards for nominations, senators' determinations of the standards for confirmation, presidents' standards for removing executive officials, the Congress's standards for approving international agreements made by means other than treaties, presidents' under-enforcement of federal laws and executive orders, the Congress's decisions on how to discipline its own members for their misconduct in office, and the uses of military force without declarations of war.See Gerhardt, supra note here, at 780.
The Constitution Annotated also uses non-judicial sources to supply relevant factual information that the Court may have omitted from its decision, but which is arguably key to understanding the decision. Also, on occasion, the Constitution Annotated notes that a debate about a particular constitutional provision or Supreme Court precedent exists, and cites secondary sources evidencing the existence of such a debate.
With respect to which non-judicial sources to use, the Constitution Annotated concentrates upon sources that are influential to decision makers in the field, or are widely regarded as authoritative or influential within the legal profession. Some non-judicial interpretations of the Constitution can influence the actions of decision makers and, accordingly, are worth citing in the Constitution Annotated despite their advocacy of particular points of view, because of their effects on how particular provisions of the Constitution are implemented in practice. For example, the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel's (OLC) opinions on the Recess Appointments Clause were discussed and relied on by the Supreme Court in NLRB v. Noel Canning, demonstrating the influence of that office's legal determination on constitutional law. Examples of such "influential" sources, beyond opinions by the OLC, include legal decisions by the Government Accountability Office. In other cases, there is near consensus within the legal profession (including the Justices on the Supreme Court) that certain non-judicial sources are influential and/or authoritative on particular issues. Often these sources are ones that have long affected constitutional interpretation, such as Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England; the Federalist Papers; Justice Joseph Story's Commentaries on the Constitution; then-Professor Louis Brandeis's early writings on the right to privacy; Professor James Bradley Thayer's works on the nature of judicial review; and then-private practitioner Learned Hand's writings on economic due process rights.
Organization of the Constitution Annotated[edit | edit source]
Overview of Constitution Annotated Organization[edit | edit source]
Constitutional law treatises are organized in various ways. For example, some prominent treatises are organized around a limited number of general concepts, most commonly (1) the relationship between the Federal Government and the states (i.e., federalism); (2) the relationship between the different branches of the federal government (i.e., separation of powers); and (3) the relationship between the government and citizens (i.e., individual rights). In many cases, these treatises focus on these general topics without addressing more context-specific issues, such as the constitutional rules undergirding modern criminal or civil procedure. Other treatises take a historical approach, moving chronologically from interpretations of the Constitution advanced at the beginning of the Nation's history to modern understandings.
The Constitution Annotated has long been unique among treatises on constitutional law, not only for its non-partisan mission, but also because it addresses the various provisions of the Constitution in the order they appear in that document: Article by Article, Amendment by Amendment, Section by Section, Clause by Clause. This structural approach can be useful in providing information about the Constitution to a broad audience, because no prior knowledge of particular constitutional concepts or history is needed to identify where in the treatise information about a provision exists. The clause-by-clause approach of the Constitution Annotated also allows readers to grapple with the meaning of specific language in particular clauses or sections without being distracted by tangential discussions.
Nonetheless, this approach is not without its disadvantages. Perhaps most notably, constitutional law has often proved to be atextual in the sense that certain basic understandings of the Constitution are not tied to specific language within the Constitution. For example, the right to travel does not exist within the plain text of the Constitution, but is instead the product of several constitutional law doctrines. As a result, the historic structure of the Constitution Annotated risks omitting critical sources--which do not focus on a specific constitutional provision--from the volume. Conversely, constitutional norms can be rooted in multiple articles or amendments. For example, the concept of "due process" is invoked in both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, with often overlapping meanings. As a consequence, following the structure of the Constitution in setting forth the material in the Constitution Annotated can, at times, lead to the unnecessary duplication.
With these considerations in mind, the current edition of the Constitution Annotated primarily follows the Article-by-Article/Amendment-by-Amendment structure of prior editions--and retains the "essay" as the fundamental building block of the content--with a few changes intended to avoid certain disadvantages of a purely structural approach. In particular, essays in the current edition are organized in three categories: (1) Introduction to the Constitution Annotated; (2) the U.S. Constitution Preamble, Articles, and Amendments, and (3) Appendix and Resources to the Constitution Annotated.
Introductory Materials in the Constitution Annotated[edit | edit source]
This part of the Constitution Annotated includes broad introductory essays covering historical background, providing authorization information, addressing ratification and overarching constitutional issues, and more. A few key introductory essays are summarized below:
Preamble, Articles, and Amendments[edit | edit source]
Following the introductory essays, there are three groups of essays, each addressing a separate part of the Constitution (i.e., the Preamble, Articles, and Amendments). Each group of essays generally follows the same basic structure consisting of the following components:
Appendix and Tables in the Constitution Annotated[edit | edit source]
Following the essays on the Preamble, Articles, and Amendments, the Constitution Annotated features an Appendix and Tables containing supplemental materials that may be useful to the reader. The Appendix contains an essay explaining the methodology underlying the formation of the Tables, and may include additional content in the future. Finally, four tables make up the Resources to the Constitution Annotated: (1) Table of Supreme Court Decisions Overruled by Subsequent Decisions; (2) Table of Laws Held Unconstitutional in Whole or in Part by the Supreme Court; (3) Table of Supreme Court Justices; and (4) Table of Cases. Additional materials prepared by the Congressional Research Service relating to the Constitution are available on the Constitution Annotated website, .
Serial Numbers in the Constitution Annotated[edit | edit source]
Each essay on the Constitution Annotated website is associated with a unique serial number based on the essay's position in the Constitution Annotated hierarchy.
The serial number begins with a prefix: Intro for essays in the "Introduction to the Constitution Annotated" category, Pre for essays in the "Preamble to the Constitution" category, Art for essays in the "Articles of the Constitution" category, Amdt for essays in the "Amendments to the Constitution" category, and finally Appx for essays in the "Appendix to the Constitution Annotated" category. Additional prefixes that may follow are: S if the essay annotates a specific constitutional section and C if the essay annotates a specific constitutional clause.
These prefixes are followed by serial numbers that indicate the position of the essay relative to other essays or group(s) of essays in the Constitution Annotated hierarchy. For example:
When concepts in a particular essay are discussed in another section of the Constitution Annotated, the essay will include cross-references including the relevant essay's serial number.
Historical Note on the Adoption of the Constitution[edit | edit source]
Continental Congress and Adoption of the Articles of Confederation[edit | edit source]
In June 1774, the Virginia and Massachusetts assemblies independently proposed an intercolonial meeting of delegates from the several colonies to restore union and harmony between Great Britain and her American Colonies. Pursuant to these calls there met in Philadelphia in September of that year the first Continental Congress, composed of delegates from twelve colonies. On October 14, 1774, the assembly adopted what has become to be known as the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress. In that instrument, addressed to his Majesty and to the people of Great Britain, there was embodied a statement of rights and principles, many of which were later to be incorporated in the Declaration of Independence and the Federal Constitution.
This Congress adjourned in October with a recommendation that another Congress be held in Philadelphia the following May. Before its successor met, the battle of Lexington had been fought. In Massachusetts the colonists had organized their own government in defiance of the royal governor and the Crown. Hence, by general necessity and by common consent, the second Continental Congress assumed control of the "Twelve United Colonies," soon to become the "Thirteen United Colonies" by the cooperation of Georgia. It became a de facto government; it called upon the other colonies to assist in the defense of Massachusetts; it issued bills of credit; it took steps to organize a military force, and appointed George Washington commander in chief of the Army.
While the declaration of the causes and necessities of taking up arms of July 6, 1775, expressed a "wish" to see the union between Great Britain and the colonies "restored," sentiment for independence was growing. Finally, on May 15, 1776, Virginia instructed her delegates to the Continental Congress to have that body "declare the united colonies free and independent States." Accordingly on June 7 a resolution was introduced in Congress declaring the union with Great Britain dissolved, proposing the formation of foreign alliances, and suggesting the drafting of a plan of confederation to be submitted to the respective colonies. Some delegates argued for confederation first and declaration afterwards. This counsel did not prevail. Independence was declared on July 4, 1776; the preparation of a plan of confederation was postponed. It was not until November 17, 1777, that the Congress was able to agree on a form of government which stood some chance of being approved by the separate states. The Articles of Confederation were then submitted to the several states, and on July 9, 1778, were finally approved by a sufficient number to become operative.
Weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation[edit | edit source]
Weaknesses inherent in the Articles of Confederation became apparent before the Revolution out of which that instrument was born had been concluded. Even before the thirteenth state (Maryland) conditionally joined the "firm league of friendship" on March 1, 1781, the need for a revenue amendment was widely conceded. Congress under the Articles lacked authority to levy taxes. She could only request the states to contribute their fair share to the common treasury, but the requested amounts were not forthcoming. To remedy this defect, Congress applied to the states for power to lay duties and secure the public debts. Twelve states agreed to such an amendment, but Rhode Island refused her consent, thereby defeating the proposal.
Thus was emphasized a second weakness in the Articles of Confederation, namely, the liberum veto which each state possessed whenever amendments to that instrument were proposed. Not only did all amendments have to be ratified by each of the thirteen states, but all important legislation needed the approval of nine states. With several delegations often absent, one or two states were able to defeat legislative proposals of major importance.
Other imperfections in the Articles of Confederation also proved embarrassing. Congress could, for example, negotiate treaties with foreign powers, but all treaties had to be ratified by the several states. Even when a treaty was approved, Congress lacked authority to secure obedience to its stipulations. Congress could not act directly upon the states or upon individuals. Under such circumstances foreign nations doubted the value of a treaty with the new Republic.
Furthermore, Congress had no authority to regulate foreign or interstate commerce. Legislation in this field, subject to unimportant exceptions, was left to the individual states. Disputes between states with common interests in the navigation of certain rivers and bays were inevitable. Discriminatory regulations were followed by reprisals.
Constitutional Convention[edit | edit source]
Virginia, recognizing the need for an agreement with Maryland respecting the navigation and jurisdiction of the Potomac River, appointed in June 1784, four commissioners to "frame such liberal and equitable regulations concerning the said river as may be mutually advantageous to the two States." Maryland in January 1785 responded to the Virginia resolution by appointing a like number of commissioners "for the purpose of settling the navigation and jurisdiction over that part of the bay of Chesapeake which lies within the limits of Virginia, and over the rivers Potomac and Pocomoke" with full power on behalf of Maryland "to adjudge and settle the jurisdiction to be exercised by the said State, respectively, over the waters and navigations of the same."
At the invitation of George Washington the commissioners met at Mount Vernon, in March 1785, and drafted a compact which, in many of its details relative to the navigation and jurisdiction of the Potomac, is still in force. What is more important, the commissioners submitted to their respective states a report in favor of a convention of all the states "to take into consideration the trade and commerce" of the Confederation. Virginia, in January 1786, advocated such a convention, authorizing its commissioners to meet with those of other states, at a time and place to be agreed on, "to take into consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the relative situations and trade of the said State; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations may be necessary to their common interest and their permanent harmony; and to report to the several States, such an act relative to this great object, as when unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States in Congress, effectually to provide for the same."
This proposal for a general trade convention seemingly met with general approval; nine states appointed commissioners. Under the leadership of the Virginia delegation, which included Edmund Randolph and James Madison, Annapolis was accepted as the place and the first Monday in September 1786 as the time for the convention. The attendance at Annapolis proved disappointing. Only five states--Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York--were represented; delegates from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Rhode Island failed to attend. Because of the small representation, the Annapolis convention did not deem "it advisable to proceed on the business of their mission." After an exchange of views, the Annapolis delegates unanimously submitted to their respective states a report in which they suggested that a convention of representatives from all the states meet at Philadelphia on the second Monday in May 1787 to examine the defects in the existing system of government and formulate "a plan for supplying such defects as may be discovered."
The Virginia legislature acted promptly upon this recommendation and appointed a delegation to go to Philadelphia. Within a few weeks New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Delaware, and Georgia also made appointments. New York and several other states hesitated on the ground that, without the consent of the Continental Congress, the work of the convention would be extra-legal; that Congress alone could propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Washington was quite unwilling to attend an irregular convention. Congressional approval of the proposed convention became, therefore, highly important. After some hesitancy Congress approved the suggestion for a convention at Philadelphia "for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government and the preservation of the Union."
Thereupon, the remaining states, Rhode Island alone excepted, appointed in due course delegates to the Convention, and Washington accepted membership on the Virginia delegation.
Although scheduled to convene on May 14, 1787, it was not until May 25 that enough delegates were present to proceed with the organization of the Convention. Washington was elected as presiding officer. It was agreed that the sessions were to be strictly secret.
On May 29 Randolph, on behalf of the Virginia delegation, submitted to the convention fifteen propositions as a plan of government. Despite the fact that the delegates were limited by their instructions to a revision of the Articles, Virginia had really recommended a new instrument of government. For example, provision was made in the Virginia Plan for the separation of the three branches of government; under the Articles executive, legislative, and judicial powers were vested in the Congress. Furthermore the legislature was to consist of two houses rather than one.
On May 30 the Convention went into a committee of the whole to consider the fifteen propositions of the Virginia Plan seriatim. These discussions continued until June 13, when the Virginia resolutions in amended form were reported out of committee. They provided for proportional representation in both houses. The small states were dissatisfied. Therefore, on June 14 when the Convention was ready to consider the report on the Virginia Plan, William Paterson of New Jersey requested an adjournment to allow certain delegations more time to prepare a substitute plan. The request was granted, and on the next day Paterson submitted nine resolutions embodying important changes in the Articles of Confederation, but strictly amendatory in nature. Vigorous debate followed. On June 19 the states rejected the New Jersey Plan and voted to proceed with a discussion of the Virginia Plan. The small states became more and more discontented; there were threats of withdrawal. On July 2, the Convention was deadlocked over giving each state an equal vote in the upper house-five states in the affirmative, five in the negative, one divided.
The problem was referred to a committee of eleven, there being one delegate from each state, to effect a compromise. On July 5 the committee submitted its report, which became the basis for the "great compromise" of the Convention. It was recommended that in the upper house each state should have an equal vote, that in the lower branch each state should have one representative for every 40,000 inhabitants, counting three-fifths of the slaves, that money bills should originate in the lower house (not subject to amendment by the upper chamber). When on July 12 the motion of Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania that direct taxation should also be in proportion to representation was adopted, a crisis had been successfully surmounted. A compromise spirit began to prevail. The small states were not willing to support a strong national government.
Debates on the Virginia resolutions continued. The fifteen original resolutions had been expanded into twenty-three. Since these resolutions were largely declarations of principles, on July 24 a committee of five was elected to draft a detailed constitution embodying the fundamental principles which had thus far been approved. The Convention adjourned from July 26 to August 6 to await the report of its Committee of Detail. This Committee, in preparing its draft of a Constitution, turned for assistance to the state constitutions, to the Articles of Confederation, to the various plans which had been submitted to the Convention and other available material. On the whole the report of the Committee conformed to the resolutions adopted by the Convention, though on many clauses the members of the Committee left the imprint of their individual and collective judgments. In a few instances the Committee avowedly exercised considerable discretion.
From August 6 to September 10 the report of the Committee of Detail was discussed, section by section, clause by clause. Details were attended to, further compromises were effected. Toward the close of these discussions, on September 8, another committee of five was appointed "to revise the style of and arrange the articles which had been agreed to by the house."
On Wednesday, September 12, the report of the Committee of Style was ordered printed for the convenience of the delegates. The Convention for three days compared this report with the proceedings of the Convention. The Constitution was ordered engrossed on Saturday, September 15.
The Convention met on Monday, September 17, for its final session. Several of the delegates were disappointed in the result. A few deemed the new Constitution a mere makeshift, a series of unfortunate compromises. The advocates of the Constitution, realizing the impending difficulty of obtaining the consent of the states to the new instrument of Government, were anxious to obtain the unanimous support of the delegations from each state. It was feared that many of the delegates would refuse to give their individual assent to the Constitution. Therefore, in order that the action of the Convention would appear to be unanimous, Gouverneur Morris devised the formula "Done in Convention, by the unanimous consent of the States present the 17th of September . . . In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names." Thirty-nine of the forty-two delegates present thereupon "subscribed" to the document.
The convention had been called to revise the Articles of Confederation. Instead, it reported to the Continental Congress a new Constitution. Furthermore, while the Articles specified that no amendments should be effective until approved by the legislatures of all the states, the Philadelphia Convention suggested that the new Constitution should supplant the Articles of Confederation when ratified by conventions in nine states. For these reasons, it was feared that the new Constitution might arouse opposition in Congress.
Three members of the Convention--Madison, Nathaniel Gorham, and Rufus King--were also Members of Congress. They proceeded at once to New York, where Congress was in session, to placate the expected opposition. Aware of their vanishing authority, Congress on September 28, after some debate, decided to submit the Constitution to the states for action. It made no recommendation for or against adoption.
Two parties soon developed, one in opposition and one in support of the Constitution, and the Constitution was debated, criticized, and expounded clause by clause. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote a series of commentaries, now known as the Federalist Papers, in support of the new instrument of government. The closeness and bitterness of the struggle over ratification and the conferring of additional powers on the central government can scarcely be exaggerated. In some states ratification was effected only after a bitter struggle in the state convention itself.
Delaware, on December 7, 1787, became the first state to ratify the new Constitution, the vote being unanimous. Pennsylvania ratified on December 12, 1787, by a vote of 46-23, a vote scarcely indicative of the struggle which had taken place in that state. New Jersey ratified on December 19, 1787, and Georgia on January 2, 1788, the vote in both states being unanimous. Connecticut ratified on January 9, 1788; yeas 128, nays 40. On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts, by a narrow margin of nineteen votes in a convention with a membership of 355, endorsed the new Constitution, but recommended that a bill of rights be added to protect the states from federal encroachment on individual liberties. Maryland ratified on April 28, 1788; yeas 63, nays 11. South Carolina ratified on May 23, 1788; yeas 149, nays 73. On June 21, 1788, by a vote of 57-46, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify, but like Massachusetts she suggested a bill of rights.
By the terms of the Constitution nine states were sufficient for its establishment among the states so ratifying. The advocates of the new Constitution realized, however, that the new Government could not succeed without the addition of New York and Virginia, neither of which had ratified. Madison, Marshall, and Randolph led the struggle for ratification in Virginia. On June 25, 1788, by a narrow margin of ten votes in a convention of 168 members, that state ratified over the objection of such delegates as George Mason and Patrick Henry. In New York an attempt to attach conditions to ratification almost succeeded. But on July 26, 1788, New York ratified, with a recommendation that a bill of rights be appended. The vote was close--yeas 30, nays 27.
Eleven states having thus ratified the Constitution, the Continental Congress--which still functioned at irregular intervals--passed a resolution on September 13, 1788, to put the new Constitution into operation. The first Wednesday of January 1789 was fixed as the day for choosing presidential electors, the first Wednesday of February for the meeting of electors, and the first Wednesday of March (i.e., March 4, 1789) for the opening session of the new Congress. Owing to various delays, Congress was late in assembling, and it was not until April 30, 1789, that George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States.
Basic Principles Underlying the Constitution[edit | edit source]
Overview of Basic Principles Underlying the Constitution[edit | edit source]
As compared to the constitutions of the fifty states or of other countries, the United States Constitution is a short document that, with its current amendments, contains only a little more than 7,500 words and has grown very little since its initial enactment. The federal Constitution consists of three central provisions: a short introductory paragraph called the "Preamble"; seven "Articles" that comprise the original Constitution that came into force in 1789; and twenty-seven "Amendments" that were subsequently added to the document. The first three Articles of the Constitution establish a Federal Government consisting of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches. It creates a tripartite system of government wherein each of the three federal branches is granted powers but given some ability to check the powers of the other two branches. Article IV generally addresses the relationship between the federal and state governments, and the remaining Articles establish, among other things, how the Constitution can be amended, the supremacy of the Constitution and federal law with respect to state law, and the process for ratifying the Constitution. The Amendments begin with the first ten amendments or the Bill of Rights and protect certain individual rights, such as freedom of speech and the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Ratified in the period following the Civil War, the Thirteenth through Fifteenth Amendments or the Reconstruction Amendments accomplish several objectives, including abolishing slavery, prohibiting states from denying equal protection or due process of the law to any person, and protecting certain voting rights. The remaining amendments vary greatly in subject matter, addressing such diverse issues as selecting a President; the income tax; the manufacturing, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors; voting rights; and compensating Members of Congress.
While much of the Constitution consists of a general framework for the federal government's form and functions, a central, and perhaps counterintuitive, purpose of the Constitution is to restrain the government, by, among other things, immunizing certain values and principles from government interference. Moreover, as Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in Marbury v. Madison, the Constitution is fundamentally "a superior, paramount law" that is "unchangeable by ordinary means." In fact, changing the Constitution requires that either two-thirds of both houses of Congress or two-thirds of the states represented at a constitutional convention propose a constitutional amendment, which must then be ratified by three-fourths of the states to take effect. As Justice Antonin Scalia noted in a 2013 interview, it is difficult to amend the Constitution, which was a deliberate choice by the Framers to preserve certain fundamental and cherished rights from majoritarian whims. In this vein, the Constitution is often described as a "higher law" that enumerates the Nation's basic values.
Given this underlying purpose of the Constitution, this introductory essay examines two fundamental questions, with which the Supreme Court, scholars, and other constitutional actors perennially wrestle: (1) what are the Nation's basic values that the Constitution protects; and (2) who should serve as the final interpreter of the Constitution. While neither question has any firm or definite answers, debates over the Constitution, both on and off the Court, often touch on these two fundamental issues.
With regard to the first question, the Constitution Annotated details the unique history of each provision of the Constitution and how it has been understood. A constitution, by its very nature, ideally has "an inner unity" and "reflects certain overarching principles and fundamental decisions to which individual provisions are subordinate." And, indeed, the Constitution of the United States broadly embraces three interrelated but distinct concepts that define American democracy. First, separation, or division, of power among the three branches of government underlies many of the Constitution's provisions and reflects the Framers' views that the Federal Government's power should be limited and diffused among the three branches. Second, the Constitution is also undergirded by the related, but distinct concept of federalism, which is the allocation of power between the national and state governments, with the Federal Government having limited powers and the states retaining a general police power. Third, the Constitution protects certain individual rights from government interference.
With respect to the second question--whose interpretation of the Constitution is dispositive--the answer has been elaborated upon and debated throughout the Nation's history. For instance, one view, which Thomas Jefferson, among others, espoused, is that each branch of government should interpret the Constitution with respect to itself. By contrast, under the "judicial supremacy" view, which the Supreme Court has adopted at times, the Supreme Court is the exclusive and final interpreter of the Constitution. Finally, the "popular constitutionalist" view holds that people and institutions outside of the Judicial Branch should play a larger role in interpreting the Constitution.
How these fundamental questions of constitutional law are answered inform many of the constitutional interpretations discussed in the Constitution Annotated. This essay, while not attempting to provide definitive answers to the two questions, provides a brief overview of two cross-cutting issues that form the basis for modern constitutional law and introduces the discussions that follow in the Constitution Annotated.
Separation of Powers Under the Constitution[edit | edit source]
A well-known concept derived from the text and structure of the Constitution is the doctrine of what is commonly called separation of powers. The Framers' experience with the British monarchy informed their belief that concentrating distinct governmental powers in a single entity would subject the nation's people to arbitrary and oppressive government action. Thus, in order to preserve individual liberty, the Framers sought to ensure that a separate and independent branch of the Federal Government would exercise each of government's three basic functions: legislative, executive, and judicial. While the text of the Constitution does not expressly refer to "the doctrine of separation of powers," the Nation's Founding document divides governmental power among three branches by vesting the Legislative Power of the Federal Government in Congress; the Executive Power in the President; and the Judicial Power in the Supreme Court and any lower courts created by Congress.
Although the Framers of the Constitution allocated each of these core functions to a distinct branch of government, the design of the Constitution contemplates some overlap in the branches' performance of government functions. In particular, the Framers favored an approach that seeks to maintain some independence for each branch while promoting a workable government through the interdependence and sharing of power among the branches. Moreover, to address concerns that one branch would aggrandize its power by attempting to exercise powers assigned to another branch, the Framers incorporated various checks that each branch could exercise against the actions of the other two branches to resist such encroachments. For example, the President has the power to veto legislation passed by Congress, but Congress may overrule such vetoes by a supermajority vote of both houses. And Congress has the power to impeach and remove the President, Vice President, and civil officers of the United States.
Over the course of our history, the Supreme Court has elaborated on the separation-of-powers doctrine in several cases addressing the three branches of government. At times, the Court has determined that one branch's actions have infringed upon the core functions of another. For instance, the Court has held that Congress may not encroach upon the President's power by exercising an effective veto power over the President's removal of an Executive officer. Furthermore, the President may not, by issuing an executive order, usurp the lawmaking powers of Congress. The Supreme Court has also raised concerns about the judiciary encroaching on the legislative or executive spheres where a litigant asks the courts to recognize an implied cause of action, or to vindicate the rights of the public at large rather than those of a specific individual in a case properly before the court. When ruling on whether one branch has usurped the authority of another in separation-of-powers cases, the Court has sometimes adopted a formalist approach to constitutional interpretation, which closely adheres to the structural divisions in the Constitution and, at other times, has embraced a functionalist approach, which examines the core functions of each of the branches and asks whether an overlap in these functions upsets the equilibrium that the Framers sought to maintain.
As discussed in the Constitution Annotated, the Court's decisions in separation-of-powers cases often--but not exclusively--address the relationships that the first three Articles of the Constitution establish among the branches of government. Some key constitutional provisions that have served as sources of modern separation-of-powers disputes include Article I, Section 7, which requires, among other things, that legislation passed by Congress be presented to the President for his signature or veto before it can become law; Article II's Vesting Clause, which states that the "executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America;" Article II's Appointments Clause, which addresses the respective roles of the President and Congress in the appointment of federal officials; Article III's Vesting Clause, which states that "[t]he 'judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish . . .'"; and Article III, Section 2's Case or Controversy Clause, which limits the jurisdiction of the federal courts.
In addition to the first three Articles, other provisions of the Constitution implicate the separation-of-powers doctrine. For example, the Supreme Court in Marbury v. Madison interpreted Article VI's establishment of the Constitution as being superior to other federal law to forbid Congress from exercising its legislative power in a manner inconsistent with the Nation's Founding document by enlarging the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court beyond the boundaries established in Article III. And the amendments to the Constitution also set forth some important structural features of the separation of powers. For instance, the Twelfth Amendment establishes the process for choosing the President and Vice President, specifically delineating the functions of both houses of Congress in counting and certifying the votes for President and the role of the House of Representatives in choosing a President when no candidate has attained a majority of electoral votes.
Federalism and the Constitution[edit | edit source]
Another basic concept embodied in the Constitution is federalism, which refers to the division and sharing of power between the national and state governments. By allocating power among state and federal governments, the Framers sought to establish a unified national government of limited powers while maintaining a distinct sphere of autonomy in which state governments could exercise a general police power. Although the Framers' sought to preserve liberty by diffusing power, Justices and scholars have noted that federalism has other advantages, including that it allows individual states to experiment with novel government programs as "laboratories of democracy" and increases the accountability of elected government officials to citizens.
Although the text of the Constitution does not clearly delineate many of the boundaries between the powers of the federal and state governments, the Supreme Court has frequently invoked certain constitutional provisions when determining that Congress has exceeded its constitutional powers and infringed upon state sovereignty. One well-known provision, regarded by the Court as both a shield and sword to thwart federal encroachment, is the Tenth Amendment, which provides that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In modern times, the Court has vacillated between the view that the Tenth Amendment operates to restrict Congress's power and the view that the amendment is a mere "truism" that cannot be used to strike down federal statutes. Other notable provisions addressing Congress's power relative to the states that the Court has debated include the Supremacy Clause in Article VI, which establishes federal law as superior to state law; the Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, which grants Congress the authority to legislate on matters concerning interstate commerce; and Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants Congress the power to enforce that Amendment's guarantees against the states through the enactment of appropriate legislation. More broadly, federalism principles also undergird many Supreme Court decisions interpreting individual rights and the extent to which the Court should federalize, for example, the rights afforded to state criminal defendants. But judges and scholars disagree on how basic principles of federalism should be realized, and a key point of controversy is whether the judiciary should enforce the interests of the states against the Federal Government or leave the resolution of such key questions about the relationship between federal and state power to the political process.
Individual Rights and the Constitution[edit | edit source]
Another important area of constitutional law is individual rights that should be protected from government interference. While the Constitution limits and diffuses powers of the federal and state governments to check government power, it also expressly protects certain rights and liberties for individuals from government interference. Most of these individual rights are found in the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment's prohibition on congressional enactments that abridge the freedom of speech and the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms. Other rights, however, reside elsewhere in the Constitution, such as Article III's right to trial by jury in criminal cases and the protections found in the Civil War Era Amendments, such as the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. Many of the individual rights protected by the Constitution relate to criminal procedure, such as the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable governmental searches and seizures; the Fifth Amendment's right against self-incrimination; and the Sixth Amendment's right to trial by jury. While the text of the Constitution specifically enumerates many individual rights, other rights are anchored in the Court's interpretations of broadly worded guarantees in the founding document.
During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the Court's constitutional jurisprudence on individual rights focused on how the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause protects certain fundamental constitutional rights found in the Bill of Rights from state government interference. Although the Civil War Era Amendments have served as the textual basis for the Court's decisions protecting these rights from state interference, the Court did not recognize that much of the Bill of Rights was applicable to the states until the mid-twentieth century.
Interpreters of the Constitution[edit | edit source]
Another fundamental question of constitutional law is who should definitively interpret the meaning of the Constitution, including its basic values and the rights it protects. This key debate remains unresolved. One view, espoused by Thomas Jefferson, among others, is that each of the three branches of government may interpret the Constitution when it relates to the performance of the branch's own functions. And this view appears to have been popular in Congress during the early days of the United States, as shown by the amount of time that Members of Congress devoted to "debating the constitutional limitations on" legislation during the first 100 years of the Nation. Similarly, when he vetoed the reauthorization of the Bank of the United States, President Andrew Jackson argued that the President was the final interpreter of the Constitution for executive functions. Dismissing the Supreme Court's 1819 decision in McCulloch v. Maryland, which upheld the constitutionality of the Bank, Jackson contended that "the opinion of the judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, and on that point the President is independent of both." With regard to the judiciary, in Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court, early in the history of the United States, famously asserted its authority to interpret the Constitution when reviewing the constitutionality of governmental action in a case or controversy properly before the Court.
The view that each branch of government has the power to interpret the Constitution when performing its own functions also has force when the Court avoids ruling on political questions or deciding cases in which litigants seek to vindicate the rights of the public at large, thereby preserving a role for the political branches in answering many important constitutional questions. For example, in Nixon v. United States, the Court held that the Constitution gave the Senate alone the power to determine whether it had properly "tried" an impeachment. And the Court may not have the last word on other issues, such as the existence of a national bank, because other constitutional actors (e.g., the President) may play a decisive role by exercising their own constitutional powers. As a result, Congress and the President each interpret the Constitution independent of the Judiciary in some circumstances. This is reflected in the practices of the political branches, such as the President's use of the veto power; Congress's exercise of the power to impeach and remove government officials; or the President's use of military force. Accordingly, somewhere between the judicial supremacy view and popular constitutionalism view is a view that recognizes that the authoritative interpreter of the Constitution may depend on the particular provision of the Constitution at issue.
In the mid-twentieth century, however, the Supreme Court began articulating a theory of judicial supremacy, wherein the Court no longer shared its role in interpreting the Constitution with the other branches of the Federal Government, but rather characterized its role as being the preeminent arbiter of the Constitution's meaning. For example, in Cooper v. Aaron, the Court read Marbury v. Madison as "declar[ing] the basic principle that the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution, and [this] principle has ever since been respected by this Court and the Country as a permanent and indispensable feature of our constitutional system." In other words, the Cooper Court concluded that the Supreme Court's interpretations of the Constitution was "the supreme law of the land," with constitutional interpretations by other actors, including Congress and the President, necessarily lacking the same force. Supporters of the judicial supremacy view assert that it promotes stability and uniformity in constitutional interpretation, as well as preserves constitutional norms from majoritarian pressures. Subsequent actions by the President and Congress support the notion that the political branches have, at times, acquiesced in this view, resulting in the popular notion that the Judiciary is the "'ultimate expositor' of the constitutional meaning."
The judicial supremacy view remains subject to debate, however. In recent decades, a number of legal scholars and government officials have criticized the judicial supremacy view, arguing that entrusting the Judiciary with exclusive power over the Constitution's ultimate meaning preserves the most momentous decisions affecting the country for an unelected and unrepresentative judiciary, preventing the democratic branches from acting on behalf of their constituents. Instead, a growing number of scholars have argued that people and institutions outside of the Judicial Branch should play a larger role in interpreting the Constitution. Their view posits that Congress, the Executive, and even ordinary citizens maintain independent and coordinate authority to interpret the Constitution. Ultimately, some scholars who do not accept judicial supremacy argue that because the Constitution expresses the fundamental values of the American people as a nation, it is essential to a democracy that the political branches and the public have a central role in exploring constitutional meanings. While no member of the Court has ever embraced wholly abandoning the Judiciary's central role in constitutional interpretation, the view that the Court should play a more restrained role because of the "countermajoritarian difficulty" that arises when an unelected judiciary overrides the decisions of a popularly elected Executive or legislature has been repeatedly argued by Justices on the modern Court.
Related to the questions discussed above is the question of how to interpret the Constitution. That issue is the subject of the Constitution Annotated essays on ways to interpret the Constitution.
Ways to Interpret the Constitution[edit | edit source]
Interpreting the Constitution Generally[edit | edit source]
Early in the history of the United States, the Supreme Court began to exercise the power that it is most closely and famously associated with--its authority of judicial review. In its 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court famously asserted and explained the foundations of its power to review the constitutionality of federal governmental action. During the two decades following its holding in Marbury, the Court decided additional cases that helped to establish its power to review the constitutionality of state governmental action. If a challenged governmental action is unconstitutional, the Court may strike it down, rendering it invalid. When performing the function of judicial review, the Court must necessarily ascertain the meaning of a given provision within the Constitution, often for the first time, before applying its interpretation of the Constitution to the particular governmental action under review.
The need to determine the meaning of the Constitution through the use of methods of constitutional interpretation and, perhaps, construction, is apparent from the text of the document itself. While several parts of the Constitution do not lend themselves to much debate about their preferred interpretation, much of the Constitution is broadly worded, leaving ample room for the Court to interpret its provisions before it applies them to particular legal and factual circumstances. For example, the Second Amendment reads, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." The text of the Amendment alone does not squarely resolve whether the "right of the people to keep and bear [a]rms" extends to all citizens or merely is related to, or perhaps conditioned on, service in a militia. This ambiguity prompted a closely divided 2008 decision of the Supreme Court that ruled in favor of the former interpretation.
The text of the Constitution is also silent on many fundamental questions of constitutional law, including questions that its drafters and those ratifying the document could not have foreseen or chose not to address. For example, the Fourth Amendment, ratified in 1791, does not on its face resolve whether the government may perform a search of the digital contents of a cellphone seized incident to arrest without obtaining a warrant. Thus, interpretation is necessary to determine the meaning of ambiguous provisions of the Constitution or to answer fundamental questions left unaddressed by the drafters. Some commentators have also noted the practical need for constitutional interpretation to provide principles, rules, or standards to govern future conduct of regulated parties, as well as political institutions, branches of government, and regulators.
When deriving meaning from the text of the Constitution, the Court has relied on certain "methods" or "modes" of interpretation--that is, ways of figuring out a particular meaning of a provision within the Constitution. There is significant debate over which sources and methods of construction the Court should consult when interpreting the Constitution--a controversy closely related to more general disputes about whether and how the Court should exercise the power of judicial review.
Judicial review at the Supreme Court, by its very nature, can involve unelected judges overturning the will of a democratically elected branch of the Federal Government or popularly elected state officials. Some scholars have argued that in striking down laws or actions, the Court has decided cases according to the Justices' own political preferences. In response to these concerns, constitutional scholars have constructed theories designed to ensure that the Justices following them would be able to reach principled judgments in constitutional adjudication. In 1987, Professor Richard Fallon of the Harvard Law School divided "interpretivists," or those purporting to prioritize the specific text and plain language of the Constitution above all else, into two basic camps: "On one side stand 'originalists,'" whom he characterized as taking "the rigid view that only the original understanding of the language and the framers' specific intent ought to count. On the other side, 'moderate interpretivists' allow contemporary understandings and the framers' general or abstract intent to enter the constitutional calculus." Whether or not Professor Fallon's precise description at the time was accurate, those regarding themselves as originalists have clarified that the Court should rely on the fixed meaning of the Constitution as understood by at least the public at the time of the founding. This has become known as the original public meaning of the Constitution.
On the other hand, still other commentators have questioned the legitimacy of fixating on what the Framers, ratifiers, or members of their generation might have considered the core meaning of a particular provision of the Constitution, and have instead suggested interpretive methods that ensure the Court's decisions allow government to function properly, protect minority rights, and safeguard the basic structure of government from majoritarian interference. Although the debate over the proper sources of the Constitution's meaning remains unresolved, several key methods of constitutional interpretation have guided the Justices in their decision making and, more broadly, have influenced constitutional dialogue.
It is possible to categorize the various methods that have been employed when interpreting the Constitution. This essay broadly describes the most common modes of constitutional interpretation; discusses examples of Supreme Court decisions that demonstrate the application of these methods; and provides a general overview of the various arguments in support of, and in opposition to, the use of such methods by the Court. The modes discussed in detail in this essay are: (1) textualism; (2) original meaning; (3) judicial precedent; (4) pragmatism; (5) moral reasoning; (6) national identity (or "ethos"); (7) structuralism; and (8) historical practices.
In explaining these modes, this essay is merely describing the most common methods on which the Justices (and other interpreters) have relied to argue about the meaning of the Constitution. Depending on the mode of interpretation, the Court may rely upon a variety of materials that include, among other things, the text of the Constitution; constitutional and ratification convention debates; prior Court decisions; pragmatic or moral considerations; and long-standing congressional or legislative practices. It is important to note that the Court may use more than one source in deciding a particular case, and the Justices must exercise some discretion in choosing or coordinating the sources and materials they will consult in making sense of those sources. A discussion of these modes of interpretation and the materials the Justices rely upon will aid the reader in understanding the motivating principles behind the Court's decisions, as discussed in further detail in the Constitution Annotated.
Textualism and Constitutional Interpretation[edit | edit source]
Textualism is a mode of legal interpretation that focuses on the plain meaning of the text of a legal document. Textualism usually emphasizes how the terms in the Constitution would be understood by people at the time they were ratified, as well as the context in which those terms appear. Textualists usually believe there is an objective meaning of the text, and they do not typically inquire into questions regarding the intent of the drafters, adopters, or ratifiers of the Constitution and its amendments when deriving meaning from the text. They are concerned primarily with the plain, or popular, meaning of the text of the Constitution. Nor are textualists concerned with the practical consequences of a decision; rather, they are wary of the Court acting to refine or revise constitutional texts.
The Justices frequently rely on the text in conjunction with other methods of constitutional interpretation. In fact, the Court will often look to the text first before consulting other potential sources of meaning to resolve ambiguities in the text or to answer fundamental questions of constitutional law not addressed in the text. For example, in Trop v. Dulles, a plurality of the Court held that the Eighth Amendment prohibited the government from revoking the citizenship of a U.S. citizen as a punishment. When determining that a punishment that did not involve physical mistreatment violated the Constitution, the Court first looked briefly to the text of the Amendment, noting that the "exact scope" of the phrase "cruel and unusual" punishment in the Eighth Amendment had not been "detailed by th[e] Court." The plurality then turned to other modes of interpretation, such as moral reasoning and historical practice, in deciding the case.
The Trop plurality's use of textualism in combination with other interpretive methods is distinguishable from a stricter textualist approach espoused most famously by Justice Hugo Black. Consistent with his view that those interpreting the Constitution should look no further than the literal meaning of its words, Justice Black contended that the text of the First Amendment, which states, "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" absolutely forbid Congress from enacting any law that would curtail these rights. An example of Justice Black's use of textualism in a First Amendment case is his dissent in Dennis v. United States. In that case, the Court held that Congress could, consistent with the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech, criminalize the conspiracy to advocate the forcible overthrow of the U.S. government. The Court determined that the severity of potential harm to the government from the speech in question justified Congress's restrictions on First Amendment rights. In accordance with his views that the text of the Constitution should serve as the sole source of its meaning, Justice Black dissented on the grounds that the Court should not have applied a balancing test to uphold the law against First Amendment challenges. He wrote, "I cannot agree that the First Amendment permits us to sustain laws suppressing freedom of speech and press on the basis of Congress's or our own notions of mere 'reasonableness.' Such a doctrine waters down the First Amendment so that it amounts to little more than an admonition to Congress."
Another classic example of a self-consciously textualist opinion is Justice Black's dissent in Griswold v. Connecticut. In Griswold, the majority struck down as unconstitutional a Connecticut law that criminalized the furnishing of birth control to married couples based on a view that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides a general right to privacy. Justice Black criticized the majority for straying too far from the text of the Bill of Rights and relying on "nebulous" natural law principles to find a right to privacy in "marital relations" in the Constitution that--at least in his view--did not exist. Adhering to his preference for interpreting the Constitution in line with its text, Justice Black wrote, "I like my privacy as well as the next one, but I am nevertheless compelled to admit that government has a right to invade it unless prohibited by some specific constitutional provision."
Proponents of textualism point to the simplicity and transparency of an approach that focuses solely on the objectively understood meaning of language independent of ideology and politics. They argue that textualism prevents judges from deciding cases in accordance with their personal policy views, leading to more predictability in judgments. Proponents also argue that textualism promotes democratic values because it adheres to the words of the Constitution adopted by the "people" as opposed to what individual Justices think or believe.
Opponents of a strict reliance solely on the text in interpreting the Constitution suggest that judges and other interpreters may ascribe different meanings to the Constitution's text depending on their background--a problem compounded by textual provisions that are broadly worded or fail to answer fundamental constitutional questions. In addition, opponents argue that judges should consider values not specifically set forth in the text, such as those based on moral reasoning, practical consequences, structural relationships, or other considerations. In other words, establishing textual meaning may not be straightforward, and a more flexible approach that does not bind the Court and policymakers to words written 300 years ago may, in the view of those who argue against texualism, be necessary to ensure preservation of fundamental constitutional rights or guarantees.
Original Meaning and Constitutional Interpretation[edit | edit source]
Whereas textualist approaches to constitutional interpretation focus solely on the text of the document, originalist approaches consider the meaning of the Constitution as understood by at least some segment of the populace at the time of the Founding. Though this method has generally been called "originalism," constitutional scholars have not reached a consensus on what it means for a judge to adopt this methodology for construing the Constitution's text. Disagreements primarily concern which sources scholars should consult when determining the fixed meaning of the Constitution. Originalists, however, generally agree that the Constitution's text had an "objectively identifiable" or public meaning at the time of the Founding that has not changed over time, and the task of judges and Justices (and other responsible interpreters) is to construct this original meaning.
For many years, some prominent scholars (such as Robert Bork) argued that in interpreting the Constitution, one should look to the original intent of the people who drafted, proposed, adopted, or ratified the Constitution to determine what those people wanted to convey through the text. According to this view, original intent may be found in sources outside of the text, such as debates in the Constitutional Convention or the Federalist Papers. For example, in Myers v. United States, Chief Justice William Howard Taft, writing for the majority, held that the President did not need legislative approval to remove an Executive Branch official who was performing a purely executive function. The Court sought the original meaning of the President's removal power by looking at English common law, the records of the Constitutional Convention, and the actions of the first Congress, among other sources. Relying on these various sources, in his opinion for the Court, Chief Justice Taft wrote that "[t]he debates in the Constitutional Convention indicated an intention to create a strong [E]xecutive." Notably, the Myers Court did not look at sources that would likely indicate what ordinary citizens living at the time of the Founding thought about the President's removal power.
Over the course of Justice Antonin Scalia's near thirty-year tenure on the Supreme Court, he and several prominent scholars explained that, as originalists, they were committed to seeking to understand original public meaning of the Constitution. This method considers the plain meaning of the Constitution's text as it would have been understood by the general public, or a reasonable person, who lived at the time the Constitution was ratified. This approach has much in common with textualism but is not identical. The original public meaning approach to understanding the Constitution is not based solely on the text, but, rather, draws upon the original public meaning of the text as a broader guide to interpretation. Justice Scalia's majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller illustrates the use of original public meaning in constitutional interpretation. In that case, the Court held that the Second Amendment, as originally understood by ordinary citizens, protected an individual's right to possess firearms for private use unconnected with service in a militia. Justice Scalia's opinion examined various historical sources to determine original public meaning, including dictionaries in existence at the time of the Founding and comparable provisions in state constitutions.
Those in favor of the use of original meaning as an interpretive approach point to its long historical pedigree and its adherence to the democratic will of the people who originally framed and ratified the Constitution. They point as well to the basic logic that a law, in order to function as law, has to have a fixed or settled meaning until it is formally amended or discarded. Proponents of originalism also argue that the approach limits judicial discretion, preventing judges from deciding cases in accordance with their own political views. Some originalists argue that changes to the Constitution's meaning should be left to further action by Congress and the states to amend the Constitution in accordance with Article V. Proponents also credit the approach with ensuring more certainty and predictability in judgments.
Those who are skeptical of this mode of interpretation underscore the difficulty in establishing original meaning. Scholars cannot always agree on original meaning, and, perhaps, people living at the time of the Constitution's adoption may not have agreed on a particular meaning either. As such, critics argue, originalists will have merely constructed a meaning that had never actually been approved by the people who drafted or ratified the actual text being construed. Such a view may stem from the potentially wide variety of sources of such meaning; conflicting statements by these sources; conflicting understandings of statements in these sources; and gaps in historical sources. Thus, because of this lack of consensus on the original meaning of the Constitution, judges may simply choose the original view that supports their political beliefs. Opponents also argue that originalism requires judges to act as historians--a role for which they may not be well suited--as opposed to as decision makers.
While Justice Elena Kagan, for example, has conceded that "we [the Justices] are all originalists," many critics question the extent to which originalism is a workable theory of constitutional interpretation. They argue that originalism is an inflexible, flawed method of constitutional interpretation, contending that the Constitution's contemporaries could not have conceived of some of the situations that would arise in modern times. They argue further that interpreting the Constitution based on original meaning may thus fail to protect minority rights because women and minorities did not have the same rights at the time of the Founding (or ratification of the Civil War Amendments) as they do today. In addition, some skeptics of originalism challenge the view that Article V should be the exclusive vehicle for constitutional change, as that article requires a two-thirds majority vote of the House of Representatives and Senate to propose an amendment, and ratification by three-fourths of the states for the amendment to become part of the Constitution. The high threshold the Constitution creates for formal amendment has prompted arguments that the Constitution's meaning should not be fixed in time, but, rather, should accommodate modern needs.
Judicial Precedent and Constitutional Interpretation[edit | edit source]
The most commonly cited source of constitutional meaning is the Supreme Court's prior decisions on questions of constitutional law. For most, if not all Justices, judicial precedent provides possible principles, rules, or standards to govern judicial decisions in future cases with arguably similar facts. Although the Court routinely purports to rely upon precedent, it is difficult to say with much precision how often precedent has actually constrained the Court's decisions because the Justices plainly have latitude in how broadly or narrowly they chose to construe their prior decisions.
In some cases, however, a single precedent may play a particularly prominent role in the Court's decision making. An example of the heightened role that precedent can play in constitutional interpretation is the Court's decision in Dickerson v. United States, which addressed the constitutionality of a federal statute governing the admissibility of statements made during police interrogation, a law that functionally would have overruled the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona. In striking down the statute, the majority declined to overrule Miranda, noting that the 1966 case had "become embedded in routine police practice to the point where the warnings have become part of our national culture."
More often, the Court reasons from the logic of several precedents in rendering its decisions. An example is Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which held that the voters of Arizona could remove from the state legislature the authority to redraw the boundaries for legislative districts and vest that authority in an independent commission. In so holding, the Court examined the Elections Clause, which states that the "Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof." The Court determined that the term "Legislature" encompassed the voters of a state making law through a referendum. In reaching this determination, the Court relied on three cases from the early twentieth century to support a more expansive view of the term "Legislature," including one case from 1916, Ohio ex rel. Davis v. Hildebrant, which the Court described as holding that a state referendum was "part of the legislative power" and could be "exercised by the people to disapprove the legislation creating congressional districts."
Proponents of the primacy of precedent as a source of constitutional meaning point to the legitimacy of decisions that adhere to principles set forth in prior, well-reasoned written opinions. They contend that following the principle of stare decisis and rendering decisions grounded in earlier cases supports the Court's role as a neutral, impartial, and consistent decision maker. Reliance on precedent in constitutional interpretation is said to provide more predictability, consistency, and stability in the law for judges, legislators, lawyers, and political branches and institutions that rely on the Court's rulings; prevent the Court from overruling all but the most misguided decisions; and allow constitutional norms to evolve slowly over time.
Some argue that judicial overreliance on precedent can be problematic. For one thing, certain precedents might have been wrongly decided, in which a case relying on them merely perpetuates their erroneous construction of the Constitution. Indeed, critics argue that, if the Court strictly adheres to precedent, once a precedent has been established on a question of constitutional law, the only way to alter that ruling is to amend the Constitution. This inflexibility is particularly problematic when those outside the Court begin to disagree about general background principles underlying a precedent; as such, disagreements arguably cause that precedent to lose its authority. For example, when precedent offends basic moral principles (e.g., Plessy v. Ferguson), the power of the Court's precedent may necessarily be weakened. Other commentators argue that "consistency," "predictability," "stability," and "neutrality" are not actually benefits of reliance on precedent, as judges may choose among precedents and, to some extent, interpret precedents in accordance with their own views in order to overrule them implicitly; to expand them; or to narrow them. In addition, some proponents of original meaning as a method of constitutional interpretation object to the use of judicial precedent that conflicts with original meaning, because it favors the views of the Court over the views of those who ratified the Constitution, thereby allowing mistaken interpretations of the Constitution to persist.
Pragmatism and Constitutional Interpretation[edit | edit source]
In contrast to textualist and some originalist approaches to constitutional interpretation, which generally focus on the words of the Constitution as understood by a certain group of people, pragmatist approaches consider the likely practical consequences of particular interpretations of the Constitution. That is, pragmatist approaches often involve the Court weighing or balancing the probable practical consequences of one interpretation of the Constitution against other interpretations. One flavor of pragmatism weighs the future costs and benefits of an interpretation to society or the political branches, selecting the interpretation that may lead to the perceived best outcome. For example, in United States v. Leon, the majority held that the Fourth Amendment does not necessarily require a court to exclude evidence obtained as a result of the law enforcement's good faith reliance on an improperly issued search warrant. Justice Byron White's majority opinion in Leon took a pragmatic approach, determining that "the [exclusionary] rule's purposes will only rarely be served" by applying it in the context of a good faith violation of the Fourth Amendment. Notably, the Court determined that adoption of a broader exclusionary rule would result in significant societal costs by undermining the ability of the criminal justice system to obtain convictions of guilty defendants. Such costs, the Court held, outweighed the "marginal or nonexistent benefits."
Another case in which the Court accorded weight to the likely practical consequences of a particular interpretation of the Constitution is United States v. Comstock. In Comstock, the Supreme Court considered whether Congress had the power under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution to enact a civil commitment law authorizing the Department of Justice to cause to be detained indefinitely convicted sex offenders who had already served their criminal sentences but were deemed "mentally ill" and "sexually dangerous." Such a power is not among those specifically enumerated in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, but the Court held that Congress could enact the law under a combination of: (1) its implied constitutional powers to, among other things, legislate criminal offenses, provide for the imprisonment of offenders, and regulate prisons and prisoners; and (2) Article I, Section 8, Clause 18 of the Constitution, which provides Congress the power to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution . . . all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States." Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the Court, listed several factors that weighed in favor of the Court's determination that Congress possessed the authority to enact the civil commitment law. One of these factors rested primarily on pragmatic concerns about the potential detriment to society of releasing dangerous offenders into the community. The Court held that the civil commitment law represented a rational means of implementing Congress's implied criminal justice powers "in light of the Government's custodial interest in safeguarding the public from dangers posed by those in federal custody."
Using another type of pragmatist approach, a court might consider the extent to which the judiciary could play a constructive role in deciding a question of constitutional law. According to this approach, a judge might observe the "passive virtues" by declining to rule on the constitutional issues in a case by adhering to certain doctrines, including those under which a judge will avoid ruling on political or constitutional questions. This may allow the Court to avoid becoming frequently embroiled in public controversies, preserving the Court's institutional capital for key cases, and giving more space for the democratic branches to address the issue and reach accommodations on questions about the meaning of the Constitution. The Supreme Court's decision in Baker v. Carr illustrates the application of this second type of pragmatism. In that case, Justice William Brennan, writing for the majority, debated a dissenting Justice Felix Frankfurter about whether the Court was the proper actor to review the constitutionality of a state's apportionment of voters among legislative districts, or whether the plaintiffs should have sought remedies from the state legislature. Justice Brennan's majority opinion in Baker ultimately concluded that a state's apportionment decisions are properly justiciable matters, as an alternative holding would require those harmed by malapportionment to seek redress from a political process that was skewed against such plaintiffs.
Those who support pragmatism in constitutional interpretation argue that such an approach takes into account the "political and economic circumstances" surrounding the legal issue before the Court and seeks to produce the optimal outcome. Such an approach may allow the Court to issue decisions reflecting contemporary values to the extent that the court considers these values relevant to the costs and benefits of a particular interpretation. On this view, pragmatism posits a view of the Constitution that is adaptable to changing societal circumstances, or that at least reflects the proper role of the judiciary.
Critics of pragmatism argue that consideration of costs and benefits unnecessarily injects politics into judicial decision making. They argue that judges are not politicians. Rather, a judge's role is to say what the law is and not what it should be. In addition, some opponents of the pragmatic approach have argued that when the Court observes the "passive virtues" by dismissing a case on jurisdictional grounds, it fails to provide guidance to parties for the future and to fulfill the Court's duty to decide important questions about constitutional rights.
Moral Reasoning and Constitutional Interpretation[edit | edit source]
Another approach to constitutional interpretation is based on moral or ethical reasoning--often broadly called the "ethos of the law." Under this approach, some constitutional text employs or makes reference to terms that are infused with (and informed by) certain moral concepts or ideals, such as "equal protection" or "due process of law." The moral or ethical arguments based on the text often pertain to the limits of government authority over the individual (i.e., individual rights). The Court has derived general moral principles from the broad language of the Fourteenth Amendment in cases involving state laws or actions affecting individual rights. For example, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Court struck down a Texas law that banned private, consensual same-sex sexual activity, as violating the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That clause provides, in relevant part, that states shall not "deprive any person of . . . liberty . . . without due process of law." The Court held that the concept of liberty "presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct." Notably, the text of the Fourteenth Amendment does not define "liberty," and the Court's holding in Lawrence is more broadly grounded in general views about the proper role of government in not punishing behavior that provides no discernible harm to the public at large.
A particularly famous example of an argument based on the "ethos of the law" is contained in the Court's decision in Bolling v. Sharpe. The Court decided Bolling on the same day it decided Brown v. Board of Education, which held that a state, in segregating its public school systems by race, violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, the Court held that the practice of "separate but equal" as applied to schools violated the Equal Protection Clause, a provision that prohibits state governments from depriving their citizens of the equal protection of the law. Bolling, however, involved the District of Columbia school system, which was not subject to the Fourteenth Amendment because the District of Columbia is not a state, but rather a federal enclave. Furthermore, the Fifth Amendment, which applies to the actions of the federal government, provides that no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" but does not explicitly contain an Equal Protection Clause. Nevertheless, the Court struck down racial segregation in D.C. public schools as a violation of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause, determining that due process guarantees implicitly include a guarantee of equal protection. The Court's reasoning was based on the Due Process Clause being derived "from our American ideal of fairness," ultimately holding that the Fifth Amendment prohibited the Federal Government from allowing segregation in public schools.
Proponents of using moral or ethical reasoning as an approach for making sense of broad constitutional text, such as the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, argue that general moral principles underlie much of the text of the Constitution. Thus, arguments about what the Constitution means based on moral reasoning produce "more candid opinions," as judges often rely upon moral arguments but disguise them as textual arguments or arguments based on precedent. Some also argue that the Framers designed the Constitution as an instrument that would grow over time. Thus, supporters of moral reasoning in constitutional interpretation contend that its use appropriately leads to more flexibility for judges to incorporate contemporary values when deriving meaning from the Constitution. Ethical arguments can also fill in gaps in the text to address situations unforeseen at the time of the founding, consistent with the understanding of the Bill of Rights as a starting point for individual rights.
Critics of using moral reasoning in constitutional interpretation have argued that courts should not be "moral arbiters." They argue that ethical arguments are based on principles that are not objectively verifiable and may require a judge to choose between "competing moral conventions." Courts may thus be ill-equipped to discern established moral principles. Judges using this mode of constitutional interpretation may therefore decide cases according to their own policy views, and opponents believe that overturning acts of the political branches based on such considerations is undemocratic. Some opponents argue that moral considerations may be better left to the political branches.
National Identity or Ethos and Constitutional Interpretation[edit | edit source]
Another approach to interpretation that is closely related to but conceptually distinct from moral reasoning is judicial reasoning that relies on the concept of a "national ethos." This national ethos is defined as the unique character of American institutions, our distinct national identity, and "the role within [our public institutions] of the American people." An example of the "national ethos" approach to ethical reasoning is found in Moore v. City of East Cleveland, in which the Court struck down as unconstitutional a city zoning ordinance that prohibited a woman from living in a dwelling with her grandson. In its decision, the Court surveyed the history of the family as an institution in American life and stated: "Our decisions establish that the Constitution protects the sanctity of the family precisely because the institution of the family is deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition. It is through the family that we inculcate and pass down many of our most cherished values, moral and cultural." Thus, the Court struck down the zoning ordinance, at least in part, because it interfered with the American institution of the family by preventing a grandmother from living with her grandson.
Another example of the Court's reliance on national ethos as a rationale is West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. In that case, the Court held that the First Amendment prohibited a state from enacting a law compelling students to salute the American flag. Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Jackson noted that, in contrast to authoritarian regimes such as the Roman Empire, Spain, and Russia, the United States' unique form of constitutional government eschews the use of government coercion as a means of achieving national unity. The Court invoked the Nation's character as reflected in the Constitution, writing that, "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."
Many of the arguments in the debate over reliance on the "national ethos" in constitutional interpretation share similarities with arguments made about the use of moral reasoning as a mode of interpretation. Some proponents of using the distinct character of the American national identity and the Nation's institutions as a method for elaborating on the Constitution's meaning argue that the "national ethos" underlies the text of the Constitution, and that the use of this method allows more flexibility for judges to incorporate contemporary American values when deriving meaning from the Constitution. Moreover, unlike approaches that discern meaning from general moral or ethical principles, the "national ethos" approach arguably has added legitimacy as a mode of interpretation because it is specifically tied to the identity and values of the United States and those aspects of the Constitution that are distinctly American. As noted, ethical arguments can also fill in gaps in the text to address situations unforeseen at the time of the founding.
On the other hand, as with moral reasoning, critics of an approach to constitutional interpretation based on the "national ethos" have argued that such an approach involves unelected judges determining the meaning of the Constitution based on principles that are not objectively verifiable--determinations that critics argue should be made by the political branches.
Structuralism and Constitutional Interpretation[edit | edit source]
One of the most common modes of constitutional interpretation is based on the structure of the Constitution. Indeed, drawing inferences from the design of the Constitution gives rise to some of the most important relationships that everyone agrees the Constitution establishes--the relationships among the three branches of the Federal Government (commonly called separation of powers or checks and balances); the relationship between the federal and state governments (known as federalism); and the relationship between the government and the people. Two basic approaches seek to make sense of these relationships.
The first, known as formalism, posits that the Constitution sets forth all the ways in which federal power may be shared, allocated, or distributed. An example of the use of this form of structuralism as a mode of interpretation is found in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha. In that case, the Court held that one House of Congress could not by resolution unilaterally curtail the statutory authority of the Executive Branch to allow a deportable alien to remain in the United States. The Court examined the structure of the Constitution and noted that under the Bicameralism and Presentment Clauses in Article I, Sections 1 and 7, laws with subject matter that is "legislative in character [or effect]" require passage by a majority in both Houses and presentment to the President for his signature or veto. Viewing the exercise of the one-House veto in Chadha to be of a legislative nature, the Court concluded that the structural relationships that the Constitution established between the Legislative and Executive Branches forbid the "one-House [legislative] veto."
An example of the Court's use of formalist structural reasoning in the context of federalism is U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton. In that case, the Court considered whether the State of Arkansas could prohibit the names of otherwise-qualified candidates for congressional office from appearing on the state's general election ballot if the candidates had served three terms in the House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate. In striking down an amendment to the Arkansas State Constitution, the Court relied heavily on its view of the formal structural relationships that the Constitution established among the people of the United States, the states, and the federal government. In particular, the Court determined that the Founding Fathers established a single, national legislature representing "the people of the United States" rather than a "confederation of sovereign states." Thus, allowing states to adopt a patchwork of distinct qualifications for congressional service would "erode the structure envisioned by the Framers." Notably, the Court in U.S. Term Limits adhered closely to its view of how the Constitution allocates power between the federal and state governments, and did not employ a balancing test to examine the degree to which the states' power to set qualifications for congressional office would interfere with the federal government's constitutional prerogatives.
A second form of structural reasoning, known as functionalism, treats the Constitution's text as having firmly spelled out the relationship among the three federal branches only at their apexes, but otherwise left it to be worked out in practice how power may be distributed or shared below the apexes. Whereas formalism purports to hew closely to original meaning and regards historical practices as basically irrelevant or illegitimate, functionalism uses a balancing approach that weighs competing governmental interests as one of its principal methodologies. One early example of functionalism is McCulloch v. Maryland. In that case, the Court held that Congress had the power to create the Second Bank of the United States. While Congress's enumerated powers in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution do not specifically include the power to create a central bank, the Court considered whether Congress had such authority under its enumerated powers when viewed in conjunction with Article I, Section 8, Clause 18, which provides Congress the power "to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States." The Court determined that Congress had an implied power to create the bank under the Necessary and Proper Clause in order to implement its express powers to tax and spend, concluding that the terms "necessary" and "proper" should not have a restrictive meaning on Congress's power. In so holding, the Court examined the structure of the Constitution's text, noting that the Constitution located the Necessary and Proper Clause in the section of the Constitution that grants powers to Congress (Article I, Section 8), instead of the section of the Constitution that restricts the powers of the Federal Government (Article I, Section 9). Moreover, the McCulloch Court noted that a more restrictive reading of Congress's powers would impair its ability to "perform[ ] its functions," as a narrow reading of the Necessary and Proper Clause would impose "some difficulty in sustaining the authority of [C]ongress to pass other laws for the accomplishment of the same objects."
As is evident, a threshold debate among structuralists is whether to use a formalist or functionalist approach when interpreting the Constitution. This debate is founded partly in concerns about which approach demonstrates greater fidelity to the Constitution, which is closest to the original meaning of the Constitution, and which best protects liberty in cases raising questions about the proper allocation of power between the branches of the Federal Government; Federal Government and states; government institutions; or citizens and government.
Formalism focuses on the structural divisions in the Constitution with the idea that close adherence to these rules is required in order to achieve the preservation of liberty. An example is the Court's opinion in Chadha, which, as noted, held that structural relationships that the Constitution established between the Legislative and Executive Branches forbid the "one-House [legislative] veto." The Court rested its holding in part on a close adherence to the structural divisions established in the Constitution, stating: "It emerges clearly that the prescription for legislative action in [Article I, Sections 1 and 7 of the Constitution] represents the Framers' decision that the legislative power of the Federal government be exercised in accord with a single, finely wrought and exhaustively considered, procedure." As demonstrated in Chadha, a formalist approach to separation-of-powers questions rejects not only looking to post-ratification historical practices as a guide for determining constitutional meaning, but also eschews balancing tests that weigh the degree of interference with one branch's powers.
By contrast, functionalism takes a more flexible approach, emphasizing the core functions of each of the branches, and asking whether an overlap in these functions upsets the equilibrium that the Framers sought to maintain. An example is the Court's opinion in Zivotofsky v. Kerry. In that case, the Court held that the President has the exclusive power to recognize formally a foreign sovereign and its territorial boundaries, and that Congress could not effectively require the State Department to issue a formal statement contradicting the President's policy on recognition. In so holding, the Court stated that the President should have such an exclusive power because the Nation must have a "single policy" on which governments are legitimate, and that additional pronouncements from Congress on the issue could result in confusion. The Court thus adopted a functionalist approach by considering the practical consequences of allocating the power of recognition between the Legislative and Executive Branches, ultimately concluding that the President alone should exercise that power.
A further illustration of the distinction between formalism and functionalism in a separation of powers case is Morrison v. Olson. In Morrison v. Olson, the Court upheld against constitutional challenge provisions in the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 that allowed for appointment of an "independent counsel to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute certain high-ranking Government officials for violations of federal criminal laws." The Attorney General could remove the independent counsel only for "good cause," a legal standard that provided the special prosecutor with significant independence from the President and his officers. In a 7-1 decision, the Court employed a functionalist approach and held that the Act did not violate constitutional separation-of-powers principles by sufficiently interfering with the President's executive authority under Article II. The Court determined the limited nature of the special prosecutor's jurisdiction and authority meant that the position did not "interfere impermissibly with [the President's] constitutional obligation to ensure the faithful execution of the laws." Justice Scalia, the sole dissenter, adopted a formalist approach, arguing that the majority failed to adhere to the strict allocations of power that the Constitution establishes among the branches of government. Justice Scalia wrote that the independent counsel provisions deprived the President of "exclusive control" over the exercise of "purely executive powers" (e.g., investigation and prosecution of crimes) by vesting them in the independent counsel, who was not removable at will by the President.
Proponents of structuralism note that it is a method of interpretation that considers the entire text of the Constitution rather than a particular part of it. As a consequence, some proponents argue that structuralist methods produce clearer justifications for decisions that require interpretation of vague provisions of the Constitution and their application to particular factual circumstances than textualism alone. Some argue that structuralism provides a firmer basis for personal rights than other modes of interpretation like textualism or moral reasoning. For example, in Crandall v. Nevada, the Court struck down a state law imposing a tax on people leaving or passing through the state. The Court inferred an individual right to travel among the states from the structural relationship the Constitution establishes between citizens and the federal and state governments. While the Constitution does not specifically provide for a right to travel among the states, because citizens of the United States might need to travel among the states to exercise other constitutional rights, the Court inferred a right to travel from the Constitution viewed in its entirety. As a result, some structuralists argue that the method of interpretation provides a more firm basis to establish key constitutional rights, like the right to travel, than other modes of constitutional interpretation.
Some scholars maintain, however, that structuralism does not always lead to a clear answer. More specifically, critics argue that it is more difficult for judges to apply and for citizens to understand interpretations based on structuralism than arguments based on other modes of interpretation. In addition, many believe that determinations about the proper structure established by the Constitution are often subjective. While the eminent Professor Charles Black argued that structure was the most important mode of constitutional interpretation, at least one other prominent commentator has argued that the approach provides "no firm basis for personal rights" because personal rights are considered to derive from the "structure of citizenship" and are therefore "vulnerable to the [government's] desire for power and its ability to manipulate the relation between citizen and state."
Historical Practices and Constitutional Interpretation[edit | edit source]
Judicial precedents are not the only type of precedents that are arguably relevant to constitutional interpretation. Prior decisions of the political branches, particularly their long-established, historical practices, are an important source of constitutional meaning to many judges, academics, and lawyers. Indeed, courts have viewed historical practice as a source of the Constitution's meaning in cases involving questions about the separation of powers, federalism, and individual rights, particularly when the text provides no clear answer.
A recent example of judicial reliance on historical practice--sometimes described as tradition--in constitutional interpretation is the Court's decision in National Labor Relations Board v. Canning. When determining, among other things, that the President lacked authority to make a recess appointment during a Senate recess of fewer than ten days, the Court cited long-settled historical practice showing an absence of a settled tradition of such recess appointments as being relevant to the resolution of a separation-of-powers question not squarely addressed by the Constitution. Another example of the influence of historical practice on constitutional interpretation is the Court's decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry. As noted, in that case, the Court held that the President had the exclusive power to recognize formally a foreign sovereign and its territorial boundaries, and that Congress could not effectively require the State Department to issue a formal statement contradicting the President's policy on recognition. In deciding the case, the Court relied in part on the long-standing historical practice of the President in recognizing foreign sovereigns without congressional consent.
An example of the use of historical practice as a method of constitutional interpretation in a case involving the limits of government power is Marsh v. Chambers. In Marsh, the Court considered whether the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which prohibits laws "respecting an establishment of religion," forbade the State of Nebraska from paying a chaplain with public funds to open each legislative session with a prayer in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Court held that the state's chaplaincy practice did not violate the Establishment Clause, attaching significance to the long-standing practices of Congress (including the Congress that adopted the First Amendment as part of the Bill of Rights) and some states in funding chaplains to open legislative sessions with a prayer. The Court wrote: "The opening of sessions of legislative and other deliberative public bodies with prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country. From colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom."
The debate over historical practice as a mode of interpretation echoes many of the elements of debates over original meaning, judicial precedent, and arguments based on a "national ethos." Functionalists, for example, attach considerable importance to historical practices as a source of constitutional meaning, while formalists generally regard them as irrelevant. Those employing this method often argue that, when the text of the Constitution is ambiguous, the use of historical practice has legitimacy as an interpretive tool. They also contend that such an approach provides an objective and neutral basis for decision making, leading to more predictability and stability in the law upon which parties can rely. Moreover, according interpretive significance to historical practices in cases concerning the allocation of power among the branches of government may help to preserve settled expectations that have resulted from long-standing compromises among the branches regarding such allocations.
Those opposing reliance on historical practices as a source of constitutional meaning argue that it may be difficult to establish definitively what the relevant historical practices are in order to interpret the Constitution properly. They suggest that not all practices are authorized by the written text and that historical sources may differ and thus might not be helpful in illuminating patterns in historical practices. They also warn that this methodology could allow judges to engage in a form of what is called "law office history"--simply choosing the sources that support the historical practices they wish to ratify or reject. Thus, it could be argued that historical practices may not lend themselves to easy or clear interpretation. Moreover, they can lead to results inconsistent with the original meaning of the Constitution. Another possible problem with reliance on historical practices in constitutional interpretation, according to its critics, is that courts could end up legitimizing long-standing historical practices, such as slavery or segregation, that offend modern moral principles. Indeed, giving historical practices special place in constitutional interpretation could lead courts to fail to protect minority rights, or to preserve the basic structure of government established by the Constitution. At the same time, reliance on historical practices might undermine the political branches when they are attempting to be innovative or opt for novel solutions to old problems.
Deriving the Constitution's meaning from long-established, historical practices of the political branches is one of several methods of constitutional interpretation the Court has relied upon when exercising the power of judicial review. In explaining the meaning of the provisions of the Constitution, the annotations that follow this essay often refer to these modes of interpretation when discussing how courts and others have construed particular provisions of the Constitution. An understanding of these methods, which are not mutually exclusive, will aid the reader in understanding the development of the constitutional doctrines that guide the Justices, government officials, and other individuals when they interpret the Constitution.
- Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1, 5-6 (1957) (plurality opinion).
- Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, 176-80 (1803).
- Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 217 (1962).
- Minersville School Dist. v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586 (1940).
- Act of Mar. 3, 1795, ch. 50, 1 Stat. 443 (1795); S.J. Res., 4th Cong., 1 Stat. 519 (Mar. 3, 1797).
- See Constitution of the United States of America: Rules of the House of Representatives, Joint Rules of the Two Houses and Rules of the Senate with Jefferson's Manual (House of Representatives, 1837); Constitution of the United States of America with the Amendments thereto; to Which Are Added Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice, the Standing Rules and Orders for Conducting Business in the House of Representatives of the United States, the Joint Rules in Force at the Close of the 43rd Congress and a Digest (House of Representatives, 1880); Senate Manual Containing the Standing Rules and Orders of the United States Senate, The Constitution of the United States, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, The Ordinance of 1787, Jefferson's Manual, Etc. (Senate Committee on Rules, 1896).
- S. Res. 151, 67th Cong., 62 Cong. Rec. 95 (1921).
- Act of Dec. 24, 1970, Pub. L. No. 91-589, 84 Stat. 1585, 2 U.S.C. § 168.
- 2 The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, at 587-88 (Max Farrand ed., 1937).
- Id. at 617-18.
- The argument most used by proponents of the Constitution was that inasmuch as Congress was delegated no power to do those things which a bill of rights would proscribe no bill of rights was necessary and that it might be dangerous because it would contain exceptions to powers not granted and might therefore afford a basis for claiming more than was granted. The Federalist No. 84 (Alexander Hamilton).
- Substantial excerpts from the debate in the country and in the ratifying conventions are set out in 1 The Bill of Rights: A Documentary History 435-620 (B. Schwartz ed., 1971); 2 id. at 627-980. The earlier portions of volume 1 trace the origins of the various guarantees back to the Magna Carta.
- In a letter to Madison, Jefferson indicated what he did not like about the proposed Constitution. "First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of the fact triable by the laws of the land and not by the law of Nations. . . . Let me add that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference." 12 The Papers of Thomas Jefferson 438, 440 (J. Boyd ed., 1958). He suggested that nine States should ratify and four withhold ratification until amendments adding a bill of rights were adopted. Id. at 557, 570, 583. Jefferson still later endorsed the plan put forward by Massachusetts to ratify and propose amendments. 14 id. at 649.
- Thus, George Washington observed in letters that a ratified Constitution could be amended but that making such amendments conditions for ratification was ill-advised. 11 The Writings of George Washington 249 (W. Ford ed., 1891).
- 2 The Bill of Rights: A Documentary History 627-980 (B. Schwartz ed., 1971). See also H. Ames, The Proposed Amendments to the Constitution 19 (1896).
- Madison began as a doubter, writing Jefferson that while "[m]y own opinion has always been in favor of a bill of rights," still "I have never thought the omission a material defect, nor been anxious to supply it even by subsequent amendment. . . ." 5 The Writings of James Madison 269 (G. Hunt ed., 1904). His reasons were four. (1) The Federal Government was not granted the powers to do what a bill of rights would proscribe. (2) There was reason "to fear that a positive declaration of some of the most essential rights could not be obtained in the requisite latitude. I am sure that the rights of conscience in particular, if submitted to public definition would be narrowed much more than they are likely ever to be by an assumed power." (3) A greater security was afforded by the jealousy of the States of the national government. (4) "[E]xperience proves the inefficacy of a bill of rights on those occasions when its controul is most needed. Repeated violations of these parchment barriers have been committed by overbearing majorities in every State. . . . Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the government is the mere instrument of the major number of the Constituents. . . . Wherever there is a interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done, and not less readily by a powerful & interested party than by a powerful and interested prince." Id. at 272-73. Jefferson's response acknowledged the potency of Madison's reservations and attempted to answer them, in the course of which he called Madison's attention to an argument in favor not considered by Madison "which has great weight with me, the legal check which it puts into the hands of the judiciary. This is a body, which if rendered independent, and kept strictly to their own department merits great confidence for their learning and integrity." 14 The Papers of Thomas Jefferson 659 (J. Boyd ed., 1958). Madison was to assert this point when he introduced his proposals for a bill of rights in the House of Representatives. 1 Annals of Cong. 439 (June 8, 1789).In any event, following ratification, Madison in his successful campaign for a seat in the House firmly endorsed the proposal of a bill of rights. "[I]t is my sincere opinion that the Constitution ought to be revised, and that the first Congress meeting under it ought to prepare and recommend to the States for ratification, the most satisfactory provisions for all essential rights, particularly the rights of Conscience in the fullest latitude, the freedom of the press, trials by jury, security against general warrants & c." 5 The Writings of James Madison 319 (G. Hunt ed., 1904).
- 1 Annals of Cong. 424-50 (June 8, 1789). The proposals as introduced are at pp. 433-36. The Members of the House were indisposed to moving on the proposals.
- Debate in the House began on July 21, 1789, and final passage was had on August 24, 1789. 1 Annals of Cong. 660-779. The Senate considered the proposals from September 2 to September 9, but no journal was kept. The final version compromised between the House and Senate was adopted September 24 and 25. See 2 The Bill of Rights: A Documentary History 983-1167 (B. Schwartz ed., 1971).
- 1 Annals of Cong. 88, 913 (1789)
- Herman V. Ames, The Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the United States During the First Century of Its History 184, 185 (1896).
- Eleventh Amendment Suits Against States.
- 4 Annals of Cong. 477, 478 (1794).
- Id. at 30, 31.
- Twelfth Amendment Election of President.
- 13 Annals of Cong. 775, 776 (1803).
- Id. at 209.
- Thirteenth Amendment Abolition of Slavery.
- Cong. Globe, 38th Cong., 2d Sess. 531 (1865).
- Cong. Globe, 38th Cong., 1st Sess. 1940 (1865).
- 13 Stat. 774.
- Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection and Other Rights.
- Cong. Globe, 39th Cong., 1st Sess. 3148, 3149 (1866).
- Id. at 3042.
- 15 Stat. 706-07.
- Fifteenth Amendment Right of Citizens to Vote.
- Cong. Globe, 40th Cong., 3d Sess. 1641 (1869).
- Id. at 1563-64.
- 16 Stat. 1131.
- Sixteenth Amendment Income Tax.
- 44 Cong. Rec., 61st Cong., 1st Sess. 4390, 4440-41 (1909).
- Id. at 4121.
- 37 Stat. 1785.
- Seventeenth Amendment Popular Election of Senators.
- 48 Cong. Rec., 62d Cong., 2d Sess. 6367 (1912).
- 47 Cong. Rec., 62d Cong., 1st Sess. 1925 (1911).
- 38 Stat. 2049.
- Eighteenth Amendment Prohibition of Liquor.
- Cong. Rec., 65th Cong., 2d Sess. 478 (1917).
- Id. at 470.
- 40 Stat. 1941.
- Cong. Rec., 66th Cong., 1st Sess. 635 (1919).
- Id. at 94.
- 41 Stat. 1823.
- Twentieth Amend., Sec. 1: Presidential and Congressional Terms.
- Cong. Rec. (72d Cong., 1st Sess.) 5086.
- Id. at 5027.
- 47 Stat. 2569.
- Twenty-First Amend., Sec. 1: Repeal of Prohibition.
- Cong. Rec. (72d Cong., 2d Sess.) 4516.
- Id. at 4231.
- 48 Stat. 1749.
- Twenty-Second Amendment Presidential Term Limits.
- Cong. Rec. (80th Cong., 1st Sess.) 2392.
- Id. at 1978.
- 16 Fed. Reg. 2019.
- Twenty-Third Amendment District of Columbia Electors.
- Cong. Rec. (86th Cong., 2d Sess.) 12858.
- Id. at 12571.
- 26 Fed. Reg. 2808.
- Twenty-Fourth Amendment Abolition of Poll Tax.
- Cong. Rec. (87th Cong., 2d Sess.) 17670.
- Id. at 5105.
- 25 Fed. Reg. 1717.
- Twenty-Fifth Amendment Presidential Vacancy.
- F.R. Doc 67-2208, 32 Fed. Reg. 3287.
- Twenty-Sixth Amendment Reduction of Voting Age.
- 36 Fed. Reg. 12725.
- 1 Annals of Cong. 88, 913.
- F.R.Doc. 92-11951, 57 Fed. Reg. 21,187.
- 138 Cong. Rec. S6948-49, H3505-06 (daily ed.).
- 307 U.S. 433 (1939).
- 2 U.S.C. § 166 (establishing and discussing the duties of the Congressional Research Service).
- A "treatise" is an "extended, serious, and usually exhaustive book on a particular subject." See Black's Law Dictionary 1732 (10th ed. 2014).
- See 2 U.S.C. § 168.
- An annotation is a legal term of art that refers to a work that "explains" or critically analyzes a "source of law." See Black's Law Dictionary 109 (10th ed. 2014).
- See Stephen Gardbaum, The Myth and the Reality of American Constitutional Exceptionalism, 107 Mich. L. Rev. 391, 399 (2008) ("Overall, the U.S. Constitution is exceptional among written constitutions both in its age and its brevity. It is the oldest currently in effect and . . . is among the shortest at 7591 words including amendments . . . .").
- See Black's Law Dictionary 378 (10th ed. 2014) (defining "constitutional law" as the "body of law deriving from the U.S. Constitution and dealing primarily with governmental powers, civil rights, and civil liberties.").
- See Barry Friedman, The Politics of Judicial Review, 84 Tex. L. Rev. 257, 333 (2005) ("Judicial review can be understood as attractive precisely because it is embedded in politics, but is not quite of it. Politics and law are not separate, they are symbiotic. It would be remarkable to believe judicial review could operate entirely independent of politics or would be tolerated as such.").
- See 2 U.S.C. § 168.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance, in Essays and English Traits 66 (Charles William Eliot ed., 1909).
- The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States ix (Kermit L. Hall et al. eds., 1992) ("Because the Court is the highest tribunal for all cases and controversies arising under the Constitution . . . , it functions as the preeminent guardian and interpreter of the Constitution.").
- The Librarian of Congress has delegated this responsibility to the Congressional Research Service.
- 2 U.S.C. § 168.
- As discussed below, appropriate attention will be paid to the manner in which historical practices, such as how Congress has understood or exercised its powers over time, are pertinent to the explication of a particular clause, section, or provision of the Constitution.
- The term "decision" necessarily entails the controlling determinations from the Supreme Court. See Black's Law Dictionary 493 (10th ed. 2014) (defining the term "decision" as "a judicial . . . determination after consideration of the facts and the law; esp., a ruling, order, or judgment pronounced by a court when considering or disposing of a case."). The Supreme Court normally decides cases by majority rule, which in modern times would require the votes of at least five Justices to join an opinion for it to be a majority opinion for the Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1 (establishing a Supreme Court consisting of a Chief Justice and eight associate justices). In a minority of cases, however, no opinion receives the full support of a majority of the participating Justices. A plurality of the Supreme Court cannot establish binding precedent. Instead, under the Marks rule, where a majority of the Court cannot agree on a particular opinion, the opinion reaching the majority result on the narrowest grounds controls. See Marks v. United States, 430 U.S. 188, 193 (1977).
- 2 U.S.C. § 168.
- Cf. Henry P. Monaghan, The Supreme Court 1974 Term, Foreword: Constitutional Common Law, 89 Harv. L. Rev. 1, 2 (1975) (arguing that the Constitution "establish[es] a nationwide floor below which state experimentation will not be permitted to fall").
- See Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 18 (1958) ("[T]he federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution, and that principle has ever since been respected by this Court and the Country as a permanent and indispensable feature of our constitutional system. It follows that the interpretation of the [Constitution] enunciated by this Court . . . is the supreme law of the land . . . ."); see generally Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 177 (1803) ("It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.").
- See Ryan J. Owens & Donald A. Simon, Explaining the Supreme Court's Shrinking Docket, 53 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1219, 1271 (2012) (noting that while the Court in the 1940s regularly heard over 200 cases per term, now the number of cases the Court hears averages about eighty cases per term).
- See The Supreme Court 2018 Term, The Statistics, 133 Harv. L. Rev. 412, Table III (2019) (noting that during the October 2018 Supreme Court term, one third of the Court's opinions could be viewed as constitutional law cases).
- Article VI Supreme Law.
- As the Supreme Court has noted, the Supremacy Clause creates a "rule of decision" for courts and does not itself provide any substantive rights. See Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Ctr., Inc., 575 U.S. 320, 324-25 (2015).
- See Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982).
- See Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009) (rejecting the proposition that a qualified immunity inquiry must necessarily resolve whether a constitutional right has been violated before determining whether the underlying constitutional right was clearly established).
- See Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987).
- See Habeas Corpus, Black's Law Dictionary 825 (10th ed. 2014) (defining the writ of habeas corpus to be "[a] writ employed to bring a person before a court, most frequently to ensure that the person's imprisonment or detention is not illegal.").
- See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).
- See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000).
- "Statutory claims" in this essay refers to assertions of a legal right grounded in a law passed by a legislative body. Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, do not typically engage in extensive interpretations of state law. Under the doctrine announced in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938), federal courts are bound to follow state law as announced by the highest state court. Id. at 78. Moreover, the Supreme Court will not review judgments of state courts that rest upon adequate and independent state grounds (i.e., nonfederal grounds). See Klinger v. Missouri, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 257, 263 (1871); see also Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032, 1043 (1983) (holding that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review a state court ruling "in the absence of a plain statement that the decision below rested on an adequate and independent state ground."). At times, the Supreme Court has even certified questions to the highest court of a state for that court to provide the definitive interpretation of a statute. See, e.g., Virginia v. Am. Booksellers Ass'n, 484 U.S. 383, 398 (1988). In short, it is relatively rare for the Supreme Court to attempt to gauge the meaning of a state law. Consequently, questions of federal statutory interpretation comprise the bulk of the Supreme Court's docket. See The Supreme Court 2018 Term, The Statistics, 133 Harv. L. Rev. 412 (2019).
- See Crowell v. Benson, 285 U.S. 22, 62 (1932).
- Pub. L. No. 103-141, 107 Stat. 1488 (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq.), declared unconstitutional, City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 511 (1997).
- See 494 U.S. 872 (1990).
- See, e.g., Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 210-11 (1972); Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 408-10 (1963).
- See 494 U.S. at 888-89.
- As originally enacted, RFRA applied to both federal and state government actions. However, in 1997, the Court struck down the provisions of RFRA that applied to the states as being in excess of Congress's power under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. See City of Boerne, 521 U.S. at 511.
- See 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb, 2000bb-1.
- Pub. L. No. 99-508, 100 Stat. 1848 (codified at 18 U.S.C. § 2510 et seq.).
- See 18 U.S.C. §§ 2518(1) & (3).
- See United States v. Leisure, 844 F.2d 1347, 1354 (8th Cir. 1988).
- The Supreme Court in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938), broadly announced that "[t]here is no federal general common law." Id. at 78. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has recognized that federal common law still exists in two instances: where a federal rule of decision is "necessary to protect uniquely federal interests" and where "Congress has given the courts the power to develop substantive law." See Tex. Indus., Inc. v. Radcliff Materials, Inc., 451 U.S. 630, 640 (1981) (internal citations omitted).
- See Gladstone, Realtors v. Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91, 100 & n.6 (1979) (discussing the "nonconstitutional limitations on standing" that derive in part from the Court's view about the proper role of federal courts in a "democratic society" (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975))).
- See, e.g., Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 53-54 (1971) (prohibiting federal courts from enjoining certain ongoing state court criminal, civil, or administrative proceedings); R.R. Comm'n of Tex. v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496, 498 (1941) (requiring federal courts to abstain from hearing cases that state courts can resolve by applying state law in a manner that relieves federal courts from making constitutional determinations).
- See, e.g., New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742 (2001) (discussing the doctrines of claim and issue preclusion).
- See generally Larry L. Teply & Ralph U. Whitten, Civil Procedure 363-71 (1991) (discussing the gap-filling role of federal common law).
- See Ryan J. Owens & Donald A. Simon, Explaining the Supreme Court's Shrinking Docket, 53 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1219, 1225 (2012) ("Since the 2005 Term, the Court has decided an average of 80 cases per Term" out of potentially thousands of petitions).
- As Justice Byron White once explained, "there is not just one Supreme Court in this country, there are 12 regional Supreme Courts [and the specialized Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit] . . . . For all practical purposes, the development of the federal law is very much in the hands of the 13 circuit courts of appeals." See Byron R. White, Enlarging the Capacity of the Supreme Court, in The Federal Appellate Judiciary in the Twenty-First Century 145 (Cynthia Harrison & Russell R. Wheeler eds., 1989).
- See Nicole Mansker & Neal Devins, Do Judicial Elections Facilitate Popular Constitutionalism; Can They?, 111 Colum. L. Rev. Sidebar 27, 28 (2011) ("Moreover, state courts play a major role in interpreting and enforcing the Federal Constitution, and, perhaps more importantly, state courts are often at the cutting edge of recognizing rights that will eventually spill over into the national constitutional discourse.").
- See The Supreme Court 2018 Term, The Statistics, 133 Harv. L. Rev. 412, Table II(E) (2019) (noting that, during the October 2018 Term, fifteen of the 106 cases disposed of by the Supreme Court came from state courts).
- State court decisions that are based on federal constitutional law are subject to Supreme Court review. See Klinger v. Missouri, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 257, 263 (1871); see also Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032, 1043 (1983).
- See 244 F. 535 (S.D.N.Y. 1917), rev'd, 246 F. 24 (2d Cir. 1917).
- See 771 F.2d 323 (7th Cir. 1985), aff'd sub nom., 475 U.S. 1001 (1986).
- See, e.g., McAuliffe v. City of New Bedford, 29 N.E. 517 (1892) (Holmes, J.) (discussing the constitutional rights of public employees); Hayburn's Case, 2 U.S. (Dall.) 409, 410 n.2 (1792) (discussing the circuit court rulings issued by Members of the Supreme Court).
- See Third Amendment Quartering Soldiers (noting Engblom v. Carey, 677 F.2d 957 (2d Cir. 1982)).
- See Michael J. Gerhardt, The Constitution Outside the Courts, 51 Drake L. Rev. 775, 777 (2003) ("It is hard to overstate the range or significance of constitutional decision making that occurs outside the Court."); Mark V. Tushnet, The Constitution Outside the Courts: A Preliminary Inquiry, 26 Val. U. L. Rev. 437, 437-38 (1992) (arguing that "Constitutional law is obsessed with the Supreme Court," and that there is a "much richer terrain to explore" with regard to noncourt actors and their interpretations of the Constitution); Edwin Meese III, The Law of the Constitution, 61 Tul. L. Rev. 979, 985-86 (1987) ("The Supreme Court, then, is not the only interpreter of the Constitution. Each of the three coordinate branches of government created and empowered by the Constitution--the executive and legislative no less than the judicial--has a duty to interpret the Constitution in the performance of its official functions.").
- See Larry Kramer, The People Themselves 8 (2004) ("Both in its origins and for most of our history, American constitutionalism assigned ordinary citizens a central and pivotal role in implementing their Constitution. Final interpretive authority rested with 'the people themselves,' and courts no less than elected representatives were subordinate to their judgments."); see generally Doni Gewirtzman, Glory Days: Popular Constitutionalism, Nostalgia, and the True Nature of Constitutional Culture, 93 Geo. L.J. 897, 898-99 (2005) (describing a "growing body of scholarship" discussing the concept of "popular constitutionalism," the idea that "the People and their elected representatives should--and often do--play a substantial role in the creation, interpretation, evolution, and enforcement of constitutional norms.").
- See Gerhardt, supra note here, at 780.
- 491 U.S. 397 (1989).
- See Gerhardt, supra note here, at 780.
- See Tushnet, supra note here, at 439-40.
- See Nixon v. United States, 506 U.S. 224 (1993).
- See generally Michael J. Gerhardt, The Federal Impeachment Process: A Constitutional and Historical Analysis 33-35 (1996).
- See Gerhardt, supra note here, at 780.
- Jama v. Immigration & Customs Enf't, 543 U.S. 335, 348 (2005) (noting the Court's "customary policy of deference to the President in matters of foreign affairs").
- Constitutional interpretations from non-court actors can also raise concerns about sources' objectivity. Various commentators have suggested that constitutional law is more prone than other areas of law to being "manipulate[d] . . . for political purposes." See generally Suzanna Sherry, Putting the Law Back in Constitutional Law, 25 Const. Comment. 461, 464 (2009); see also id. at 461 ("The legal academy has erased the distinction between law and politics, used its expertise for political advantage rather than for elucidation, and mis-educated a generation of lawyers."). As a consequence, indiscriminate use of such sources in the Constitution Annotated could be at odds with the mission of providing objective, non-partisan, and authoritative analysis of the Constitution. Moreover, beyond considerations of objectivity, academic writing on the Constitution can, at times, be esoteric and may not warrant an extended discussion in this volume. See, e.g., Video: Annual Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Conference, C-SPAN (June 25, 2011),  (statement of Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. stating: "Pick up a copy of any law review that you see, and the first article is likely to be, you know, the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria, or something, which I'm sure was of great interest to the academic that wrote it, but isn't of much help to the bar.").
- For example, in the wake of the Court's 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which prohibited a state from defining marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, there was debate about whether the logic of Obergefell could apply in contexts not involving same-sex marriage. See 576 U.S. 644 (2015). That debate is noted in the Constitution Annotated. See Fourteenth Amend., Sec. 1: Overview of Fundamental Rights.
- See, e.g., 573 U.S. 513, 544 (2014).
- See Samuel D. Warren & Louis D. Brandeis, The Right to Privacy, 4 Harv. L. Rev. 193, 195 (1890).
- See James B. Thayer, The Origin and Scope of the American Doctrine of Constitutional Law, 7 Harv. L. Rev. 129 (1893).
- See Learned Hand, Due Process of Law and the Eight-Hour Day, 21 Harv. L. Rev. 495, 503 (1908).
- See, e.g., Kathleen M. Sullivan & Noah Feldman, Constitutional Law (18th ed. 2013).
- See, e.g., Paul Brest et. al., Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking: Cases and Materials (5th ed. 2006).
- See Jones v. Helms, 452 U.S. 412, 418-19 (1981) ("The right to travel has been described as a privilege of national citizenship, and as an aspect of liberty that is protected by the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.").
- The fundamental building block of the Constitution Annotated is the "essay." The content may take the form of a single standalone essay or a group of essays (multiple essays grouped under a common heading).
- Certain provisions of the Constitution may not lend themselves to full essays on each provision. In such instances, the constitutional provision may contain a single Constitution Annotated essay that provides an overview, historical background, and the doctrine collapsed in one.
- See Beyond the Constitution Annotated: Table of Additional Resources, . For more information about the content and methodology of each Table, see .
- The colonists, for example, claimed the right "to life, liberty, and property"; "the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural-born subjects within the realm of England"; the right to participate in legislative councils; "the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage, according to the course of [the common law of England]"; "the immunities and privileges granted and confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured by their several codes of provincial laws"; "a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the king." They further declared that the keeping of a standing army in the colonies in time of peace without the consent of the colony in which the army was kept was "against law"; that it was "indispensably necessary to good government, and rendered essential by the English constitution, that the constituent branches of the legislature be independent of each other"; that certain acts of Parliament in contravention of the foregoing principles were "infringement and violations of the rights of the colonists." Text in C. Tansill (ed.), Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States, H. Doc. No. 358, 69th Congress, 1st sess. (1927), 1. See also H. Commager (ed.), Documents of American History (New York; 8th ed. 1964), 82.
- Tansill, supra note here, at 10.
- Tansill, supra note here, at 19.
- Tansill, supra note here, at 21.
- George Mason, Edmund Randolph, James Madison, and Alexander Henderson were appointed commissioners for Virginia; Thomas Johnson, Thomas Stone, Samuel Chase, and Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer for Maryland.
- Text of the resolution and details of the compact may be found in Wheaton v. Wise, 153 U.S. 155 (1894).
- Tansill, supra note here, at 38.
- Tansill, supra note here, at 39.
- The New Hampshire delegation did not arrive until July 23, 1787.
- Rutledge of South Carolina, Randolph of Virginia, Gorham of Massachusetts, Ellsworth of Connecticut, and Wilson of Pennsylvania.
- William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut, Alexander Hamilton of New York, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, James Madison of Virginia, and Rufus King of Massachusetts.
- At least sixty-five persons had received appointments as delegates to the Convention; fifty-five actually attended at different times during the course of the proceedings; thirty-nine signed the document. It has been estimated that generally fewer than thirty delegates attended the daily sessions.
- These commentaries on the Constitution, written during the struggle for ratification, have been frequently cited by the Supreme Court as an authoritative contemporary interpretation of the meaning of its provisions.
- North Carolina added her ratification on November 21, 1789; yeas 184, nays 77. Rhode Island did not ratify until May 29, 1790; yeas 34, nays 32.
- See Stephen Gardbaum, The Myth and the Reality of American Constitutional Exceptionalism, 107 Mich. L. Rev. 391, 399 (2008) ("Overall, the U.S. Constitution is exceptional among written constitutions both in its age and its brevity. It is the oldest currently in effect and . . . is among the shortest at 7591 words including amendments . . . .").
- See Donald S. Lutz, Toward a Theory of Constitutional Amendment, 88 Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. 355, 367, 369 (1994) (comparing the U.S. Constitution to the constitutions of the fifty states and over thirty countries).
- See U.S. Const.
- See id. art. I.
- See id. art. II.
- See id. art. III.
- See id. art. V.
- See id. art. VI.
- See id. art. VII.
- See id. amend. I.
- See id. amend. IV.
- See Kathleen M. Sullivan & Noah Feldman, Constitutional Law 441 (19th ed. 2016).
- See Thirteenth Amendment Abolition of Slavery.
- See id. amend. XIV.
- See id. amend. XV.
- See id. amends. XII, XX, XXII, XXV.
- See id. amend. XVI.
- See id. amends. XVIII, XXI. The Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, which established a nationwide prohibition on the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages.
- See id. amends. XIX, XXIV, XXVI.
- See id. amend. XXVII.
- See Jack M. Balkin, Constitutional Redemption 239 (2011) (noting that the Constitution serves a function as a "basic law" or "framework for governance that allocates powers and responsibilities").
- See Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law 10 (3d ed. 2000).
- Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 177 (1803).
- See Article V Amending the Constitution. Article V provides two means to ratify an amendment to the Constitution: approval of three-quarters of the state legislatures or three-quarters of the state ratifying conventions. The Article V convention mechanism for proposing amendments to the Constitution has never been used. See Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention--2010: How to Count to Thirty-Four: The Constitutional Case for a Constitutional Convention, 34 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 837, 837-38 (2011) ("[T]he convention route [has] never successfully been employed.").
- Jennifer Senior, In Conversation: Antonin Scalia, N.Y. Mag. (Oct. 4, 2013),  ("I think if you picked the smallest number necessary for a majority in the least populous states, something like less than 2 percent of the population can prevent a constitutional amendment."). See also Erwin Chemerinsky, Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies 7 (4th ed. 2011) ("[A] defining characteristic of the American Constitution is that it is very difficult to alter.").
- Chemerinsky, supra note here; see also Tribe, supra note here, at 10.
- See Marbury, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) at 180 ("[I]n declaring what shall be the supreme law of the land, the constitution itself is first mentioned; and not the laws of the United States generally, but those only which shall be made in pursuance of the constitution, have that rank. Thus, the particular phraseology of the constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written constitutions, that a law repugnant to the constitution is void; and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument."). See also Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 16-17 (1958) ("Article VI of the Constitution makes the Constitution the 'supreme Law of the Land.'").
- See, e.g., Thornburgh v. Am. Coll. of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747, 789 (1986) (White, J., dissenting) ("The Constitution . . . is a document announcing fundamental principles in value-laden terms . . . .").
- A third fundamental question of constitutional law--how to decide what values the Constitution protects--is the subject of the introductory essay that follows. See Modes of Constitutional Interpretation (forthcoming on the Constitution Annotated online).
- Holmes v. Jennison, 39 U.S. (14 Pet.) 540, 570-77 (1840) (plurality opinion) ("In expounding the Constitution of the United States, every word must have its due force, and appropriate meaning; for it is evident from the whole instrument, that no word was unnecessarily used, or needlessly added."); Marbury, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) at 174 ("It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect . . . .").
- See Southwest State Case,  BVerfGE 1, 14 (Ger.), translated in Donald P. Kommers, The Constitutional Jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany 62, 63 (2d ed. 1997).
- See Black's Law Dictionary 1572 (10th ed. 2014) (defining "separation of powers" as the "division of governmental authority into three branches of government--legislative, executive, and judicial--each with specified duties on which neither of the other branches can encroach.").
- See The Federalist No. 47 (James Madison) (explaining that "the preservation of liberty" requires that the "three great departments of power should be separate and distinct.").
- See Black's Law Dictionary 729 (10th ed. 2014) (defining "federalism" as "[t]he legal relationship and distribution of power between the national and regional governments within a federal system of government, and in the United States particularly, between the federal government and the state governments").
- See The Federalist No. 45 (James Madison) ("The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.").
- See Black's Law Dictionary 1517 (10th ed. 2014) (defining an "individual right" as an "absolute right" or "right that belongs to every human being, such as the right of personal liberty; a natural right").
- See Chemerinsky, supra note here, at 27-29.
- See, e.g., Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Judge Spencer Roane Poplar Forest, Univ. of Groningen: Am. History From Revolution to Reconstruction & Beyond (Sept. 6, 1819),  ("[E]ach of the three departments has equally the right to decide for itself what is its duty under the Constitution, without any regard to what the others may have decided for themselves under a similar question.").
- See, e.g., Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 16-17 (1958) ("[T]he federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution, and [this] principle has ever since been respected by this Court and the Country as a permanent and indispensable feature of our constitutional system.").
- See Larry D. Kramer, The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review 8 (2004) ("Both in its origins and for most of our history, American constitutionalism assigned ordinary citizens a central and pivotal role in implementing their Constitution. Final interpretive authority rested with 'the people themselves,' and courts no less than elected representatives were subordinate to their judgments."); see generally Doni Gewirtzman, Glory Days: Popular Constitutionalism, Nostalgia, and the True Nature of Constitutional Culture, 93 Geo. L.J. 897, 898-99 (2005) (describing a "growing body of scholarship" discussing the concept of "popular constitutionalism," the idea that "the People and their elected representatives should--and often do--play a substantial role in the creation, interpretation, evolution, and enforcement of constitutional norms.").
- The Federalist No. 48 (James Madison) ("[T]he accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.").
- See id. No. 47 (James Madison) (explaining that "the preservation of liberty" requires that the "three great departments of power should be separate and distinct").
- Art. I, Section 1 Legislative Vesting Clause.
- Id. art. II, § 1.
- Id. art. III, § 1. See also Black's Law Dictionary 1572 (10th ed. 2014) (defining "separation of powers" as the "division of governmental authority into three branches of government--legislative, executive, and judicial--each with specified duties on which neither of the other branches can encroach").
- Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 121 (1976) (per curiam) ("[A] hermetic sealing off of the three branches of Government from one another would preclude the establishment of a Nation capable of governing itself effectively."); Youngtown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 635 (1952) (Jackson, J., concurring) ("[W]hile the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity.").
- See supra note here.
- The Federalist No. 51 (James Madison) ("But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition."); id. No. 48 (James Madison) ("The conclusion which I am warranted in drawing from these observations is, that a mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits of the several departments, is not a sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the same hands."). See generally Buckley, 424 U.S. at 122 ("The Framers regarded the checks and balances that they had built into the tripartite Federal Government as a self-executing safeguard against the encroachment or aggrandizement of one branch at the expense of the other."); Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 293 (1926) (Brandeis, J., dissenting) ("The doctrine of the separation of powers was adopted by the convention of 1787, not to promote efficiency but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power. The purpose was not to avoid friction, but, by means of the inevitable friction incident to the distribution of the governmental powers among three departments, to save the people from autocracy.").
- Art. I, Sec. 7, Clause 3 Process.
- Id. art. II, § 4.
- Myers, 272 U.S. at 161.
- Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 587 (1952).
- See Ziglar v. Abbasi, No. 15-1358, slip op. at 12 (U.S. June 19, 2017) (stating that when a party "seeks to assert an implied cause of action" under either the Constitution or a federal statute, "separation-of-powers principles are or should be central to the analysis," and that Congress, not the courts, "most often" is the appropriate branch to decide whether to provide for a private remedy); Nestle USA, Inc. v. Doe, Nos. 19-416, 19-453, slip op. at 7 (U.S. Jun. 17, 2021) (plurality opinion) (describing "judicial creation of a cause of action" as "an extraordinary act that places great stress on the separation of powers"). Cf. Tanzin v. Tanvir, No. 19-71, slip op. at 8 (U.S. Dec. 10, 2020) (stating that "separation-of-powers concerns" did not bar personal money damages against federal officials under a particular statute because "damages against government officials" have "coexisted with our constitutional system since the dawn of the Republic"). See also Art. III, Sec. 2, Cl. 1: Overview of Federal Question Jurisdiction.
- Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 576-77 (1992).
- Peter L. Strauss, Formal and Functional Approaches to Separation-of-Powers Questions--A Foolish Inconsistency?, 72 Cornell L. Rev. 488, 489 (1987) ("The Supreme Court has vacillated over the years between using a formalistic approach to separation-of-powers issues grounded in the perceived necessity of maintaining three distinct branches of government (and consequently appearing to draw rather sharp boundaries), and a functional approach that stresses core function and relationship, and permits a good deal of flexibility when these attributes are not threatened.").
- See, e.g., Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417, 439-40 (1998) (striking down the Line Item Veto Act, which authorized the President, within five days of signing a bill into law, to make partial cancellation of certain tax and spending provisions in the law if the President determined certain criteria were met, as violating the bicameralism and presentment requirements of Article I, Section 7, Clauses 2-3 of the Constitution).
- See, e.g., Zivotofsky v. Kerry, 576 U.S. 1, 33 (2015) (Thomas, J., concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part) ("[The Constitution] vests the residual foreign affairs powers of the Federal Government--i.e., those not specifically enumerated in the Constitution--in the President by way of Article II's Vesting Clause."); Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 161 (1926) (holding that Congress cannot veto the President's removal of an Executive officer).
- See, e.g., Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 660 (1988) (holding that the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, which allowed for the appointment of an "independent counsel" by a special panel of a federal court to investigate potential violations of criminal laws by federal officials, did not violate the Appointments Clause).
- See, e.g., Miller v. French, 530 U.S. 327, 341-50 (2000) (holding that a provision in the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 providing for an "automatic stay" of court orders enjoining unlawful prison conditions did not violate the separation-of-powers doctrine by infringing upon the judiciary's Article III powers).
- See, e.g., Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 176 (1803) ("The authority, therefore, given to the supreme court, by the act establishing the judicial courts of the United States, to issue writs of mandamus to public officers, appears not to be warranted by [Article III, Section 2 of] the constitution . . .").
- Id. at 180 ("[I]n declaring what shall be the supreme law of the land, the constitution itself is first mentioned; and not the laws of the United States generally, but those only which shall be made in pursuance of the constitution, have that rank. Thus, the particular phraseology of the constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written constitutions, that a law repugnant to the constitution is void; and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument."). See also Article VI Supreme Law.
- Twelfth Amendment Election of President ("The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;--The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.").
- See Bond v. United States, 572 U.S. 844, 857-58 (2014) ("Among the background principles . . . that our cases have recognized are those grounded in the relationship between the Federal Government and the States under our Constitution.").
- The Federalist No. 45 (James Madison) ("The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."). See also United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598, 618 (2000) ("Indeed, we can think of no better example of the police power, which the Founders denied the National Government and reposed in the States, than the suppression of violent crime and vindication of its victims.").
- Bond v. United States, 564 U.S. 211, 222 (2011) ("By denying any one government complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life, federalism protects the liberty of the individual from arbitrary power. When government acts in excess of its lawful powers, that liberty is at stake."); United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 576 (1995) (Kennedy, J., concurring) ("Though on the surface the idea may seem counterintuitive, it was the insight of the Framers that freedom was enhanced by the creation of two governments, not one.").
- See generally Erwin Chemerinsky, Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies 127 (4th ed. 2011).
- See New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, 285 U.S. 262, 311 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting) ("It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.").
- See FTC v. Ticor Title Ins. Co., 504 U.S. 621, 636 (1992) ("Federalism serves to assign political responsibility, not to obscure it."); see also Lopez, 514 U.S. at 576 (Kennedy, J., concurring) ("The theory that two governments accord more liberty than one requires for its realization two distinct and discernable lines of political accountability: one between the citizens and the Federal Government; the second between the citizens and the States.").
- Cf. Chemerinsky, supra note here, at 115 ("A basic principle of American government is that Congress may act only if there is express or implied authority in the Constitution, whereas states may act unless the Constitution prohibits the action.").
- Id. at 3 ("Early in [the 20th] century, the Court aggressively used the Tenth Amendment as a limit on Congress's power. After 1937, the Court rejected this view and did not see the Tenth Amendment as a basis for declaring federal laws unconstitutional. In the 1990s, however, the Tenth Amendment was once more used by the Supreme Court to invalidate federal statutes.").
- See, e.g., Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251, 273-74 (1918) ("The grant of power to Congress over the subject of interstate commerce was to enable it to regulate such commerce, and not to give it authority to control the states in their exercise of the police power over local trade and manufacture. The grant of authority over a purely federal matter was not intended to destroy the local power always existing and carefully reserved to the States in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution."), overruled, United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941); Nat'l League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833, 851-52 (1976) (holding that Congress's Commerce Clause power did not extend to regulation of wages, hours, and benefits of state employees because the Tenth Amendment reserves that area to the states), overruled, Garcia v. San Antonio Metro. Transit Auth., 469 U.S. 528 (1985); NFIB v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519, 588 (2012) ("Congress has no authority to order the States to regulate according to its instructions. Congress may offer the States grants and require the States to comply with accompanying conditions, but the States must have a genuine choice whether to accept the offer.").
- Darby, 312 U.S. at 124 ("The amendment states but a truism that all is retained which has not been surrendered.").
- NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 30 (1937) (upholding the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 as a proper exercise of Congress's Commerce Clause power and consistent with the Tenth Amendment); Darby, 312 U.S. at 123-24 ("The [Tenth Amendment] states but a truism that all is retained which has not been surrendered. There is nothing in the history of its adoption to suggest that it was more than declaratory of the relationship between the national and state governments as it had been established by the Constitution before the amendment or that its purpose was other than to allay fears that the new national government might seek to exercise powers not granted, and that the states might not be able to exercise fully their reserved powers."); San Antonio Metro. Transit Auth., 469 U.S. at 556-57 (holding that Congress's Commerce Clause power extended to regulation of wages and hours of state and local employees and declaring that the Court's decision in Nat'l League of Cities v. Usery "underestimated, in [the Court's] view, the solicitude of the national political process for the continued vitality of the States").
- See generally Gregory E. Maggs & Peter J. Smith, Constitutional Law: A Contemporary Approach 246 (2d ed. 2011) (noting the doctrine of federal preemption, which is based on the Supremacy Clause, is the "most common constitutional ground upon which state laws are judicially invalidated").
- See, e.g., United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 551 (1995) (holding that Congress had exceeded its Commerce Clause power when it enacted a law criminalizing possession of a firearm near a school).
- See, e.g., City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 519-20 (1997) (holding that the scope of Congress's enforcement power under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment did not grant Congress the power to invade the sovereign rights of the states), superseded on other grounds by statute as stated in Holt v. Hobbs, 574 U.S. 352 (2015).
- See, e.g., Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 726 (1991) ("This is a case about federalism. It concerns the respect that federal courts owe the States and the States' procedural rules when reviewing the claims of state prisoners in federal habeas corpus."); Spencer v. Texas, 385 U.S. 554, 563-64 (1967) ("Cases in this Court have long proceeded on the premise that the Due Process Clause guarantees the fundamental elements of fairness in a criminal trial . . . But it has never been thought that such cases establish this Court as a rule-making organ for the promulgation of state rules of criminal procedure.") (internal citations omitted).
- E.g., Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1, 33 (2005) (upholding Congress's regulation of intrastate cultivation and possession of marijuana for medical use as a proper exercise of its Commerce Clause power and stating that "more important than these legal avenues is the democratic process, in which the voices of voters allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress"). Scholars have also considered this question. See generally Jesse H. Choper, The Scope of National Power Vis-a-Vis the States: The Dispensability of Judicial Review, 86 Yale L.J. 1552, 1557 (1977) ("[T]he federal judiciary should not decide constitutional questions respecting the ultimate power of the national government vis-a-vis the states; the constitutional issue whether federal action is beyond the authority of the central government and thus violates 'states rights' should be treated as nonjusticiable, with final resolution left to the political branches.").
- See Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law 10 (3d ed. 2000).
- First Amendment Fundamental Freedoms.
- Id. amend. II.
- Id. art. III, § 2, cl. 3.
- E.g., id. amend. XIV, § 1.
- See, e.g., id. amend. IV ("The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.").
- See, e.g., id. amend. V ("No person shall . . . be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself . . . .").
- See, e.g., id. amend. VI ("In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed . . . .").
- See, e.g., id.amend. V ("[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."); id.art. I, § 10, cl. 1 ("No State shall . . . pass any . . . Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts . . . .").
- See, e.g., Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2604-05 (2015) ("[T]he right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.").
- See generally McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, 764-65 (2010) (noting that, during the 1960s, the Court "shed any reluctance to hold that rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights met the requirements for protection under the Due Process Clause. The Court eventually incorporated almost all of the provisions of the Bill of Rights. Only a handful of the Bill of Rights protections remain unincorporated."); see, e.g., Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 161-62 (1968) (holding that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury and makes it applicable to the states).
- See McDonald, 561 U.S. at 764-65.
- Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Judge Spencer Roane Poplar Forest, Univ. of Groningen: Am. History From Revolution to Reconstruction & Beyond (Sept. 6, 1819), . In a speech opposing the Supreme Court's decision in Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857), Abraham Lincoln argued that officers of each branch of the Federal Government could disregard the Supreme Court's interpretations of the Constitution when performing their own constitutional functions. In particular, he cited President Andrew Jackson's veto of Congress's rechartering of the Second Bank of the United States following the Supreme Court's decision in McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316 (1819), which upheld the constitutionality of the bank. Abraham Lincoln, Speech on the Dred Scott Decision in Springfield, Illinois (June 26, 1857), in The Life and Writings of Abraham Lincoln 418 (Philip Van Doren Stern ed., 2000).For more on interpretations of the Constitution that occur outside of the courts, see Introduction: Non-Judicial Sources of Constitutional Meaning.
- See Russ Feingold, The Obligation of Members of Congress to Consider Constitutionality While Deliberating and Voting: The Deficiencies of House Rule XII and A Proposed Rule for the Senate, 67 Vand. L. Rev. 837, 846-49 (2014); see generally David P. Currie, The Constitution in Congress 120 nn. 25-27 (1997) (cataloging various constitutional debates during early Congresses).
- 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316 (1819).
- See Andrew Jackson, Veto Message, Avalon Project, Yale L. Sch. (July 10, 1832), .
- Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 177 (1803) ("It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.").
- E.g., Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 634-35 (1952) (Jackson, J., concurring) ("A judge, like an executive adviser, may be surprised at the poverty of really useful and unambiguous authority applicable to concrete problems of executive power as they actually present themselves. . . . And court decisions are indecisive because of the judicial practice of dealing with the largest questions in the most narrow way.").
- 506 U.S. 224, 228-29 (1993).
- See supra notes here-here and accompanying text (recounting President Andrew Jackson's veto of Congress's reauthorization of the Second Bank of the United States).
- See generally Michael J. Gerhardt, The Constitution Outside the Courts, 51 Drake L. Rev. 775, 780 (2003).
- See id.
- Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 18 (1958).
- The Court has, at times, grounded this principle in the concern that if each branch were the "final judge of its own power under the Constitution," such a system would run contrary to notions of a limited and checked government. Baltimore & O R. Co. v. United States, 298 U.S. 349, 364 (1936).
- See Larry B. Alexander & Frederick F. Schauer, On Extrajudicial Constitutional Interpretation, 110 Harv. L. Rev. 1359, 1369-81 (1997) (defending judicial supremacy because finality in constitutional interpretation provides stability and coordination in a constitutional democracy).
- See Erwin Chemerinsky, In Defense of Judicial Review: A Reply to Professor Kramer, 92 Calif. L. Rev. 1013, 1018-24 (2004) (arguing for judicial supremacy because of concerns that a majoritarian Congress might interpret the Constitution in such a way as to not adequately protect minority rights).
- See generally Paul Brest, Congress as Constitutional Decisionmaker and Its Power to Counter Judicial Doctrine, 21 Ga. L. Rev. 57, 85 (1986) ("By the second half of the twentieth century, both the House and the Senate had abandoned the tradition of deliberating over ordinary constitutional issues."); Feingold, supra note here, at 849-50 (noting the decline of constitutional interpretation by Members of Congress following Cooper v. Aaron and the "rise of judicial supremacy"); Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Most Dangerous Branch: Executive Power to Say What the Law Is, 83 Geo. L.J. 217, 224 (1994) ("[T]he greater problem today is not the too-forceful exercise of presidential power to interpret law, but the too-feeble acquiescence of the executive branch in the courts' assertion of dominant interpretive power.").
- See Alon Harel & Adam Shinar, Between Judicial and Legislative Supremacy: A Cautious Defense of Constrained Judicial Review, 10 Int'l J. Const. L. 950, 953 (2012) ("For many years, there has been basically one idea undergirding the practice of judicial review--American style judicial review, (now) also known as strong judicial review. Under that view, the judiciary is the 'ultimate expositor' of constitutional meaning, having the final say over constitutional interpretation.").
- See, e.g., Jeremy Waldron, The Core of the Case Against Judicial Review, 115 Yale L. J. 1346, 1349-50 (2006) (describing the claim that "legislators are incapable of addressing" the meaning of the Constitution as "nonsense"); Mark V. Tushnet, Taking the Constitution Away From the Courts 154-76 (1999) (arguing for the abolishment of judicial review in favor of popular constitutionalism); Robert H. Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline 321 (1996) (urging Americans to "see the judiciary for what it is, an organ of power without legitimacy either in democratic theory or in the Constitution" and advocating for passage of a constitutional amendment allowing the political branches to override judicial decisions).
- See Waldron, supra note here, at 1353 ("By privileging majority voting among a small number of unelected and unaccountable judges, [judicial review] disenfranchises ordinary citizens and brushes aside cherished principles of representation and political equality in the final resolution of issues about rights.").
- See Larry D. Kramer, The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review 8 (2004) ("Both in its origins and for most of our history, American constitutionalism assigned ordinary citizens a central and pivotal role in implementing their Constitution. Final interpretive authority rested with 'the people themselves,' and courts no less than elected representatives were subordinate to their judgments."); see generally Doni Gewirtzman, Glory Days: Popular Constitutionalism, Nostalgia, and the True Nature of Constitutional Culture, 93 Geo. L.J. 897, 898-99 (2005) (describing a "growing body of scholarship" discussing the concept of "popular constitutionalism," the idea that "the People and their elected representatives should--and often do--play a substantial role in the creation, interpretation, evolution, and enforcement of constitutional norms").
- See Edwin M. Meese III, The Law of the Constitution, 61 Tul. L. Rev. 979, 985-86 (1987) ("The Supreme Court, then, is not the only interpreter of the Constitution. Each of the three coordinate branches of government created and empowered by the Constitution--the executive and legislative no less than the judicial--has a duty to interpret the Constitution in the performance of its official functions."); Kramer, supra note here, at 8.
- See Mark V. Tushnet, Popular Constitutionalism as Political Law, 81 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 991, 992-93 (2006).
- Professor Alexander Bickel coined the phrase "countermajoritarian difficulty" to describe the conflict that results when a court "declares unconstitutional a legislative act or the action of an elected executive" and "thwarts" the enforcement of an act that presumably reflects the will of the voters. See Alexander Bickel, The Least Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics 16-17 (1962).
- See, e.g., Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2612 (2015) (Roberts, C.J., dissenting) ("The majority's decision is an act of will, not legal judgment . . . [T]he Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?"); United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 744, 778 (2013) (Scalia, J., dissenting) ("This case is about power in several respects. It is about the power of our people to govern themselves, and the power of this Court to pronounce the law. Today's opinion aggrandizes the latter, with the predictable consequence of diminishing the former."); Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310, 479 (2010) (Stevens, J., dissenting) ("In a democratic society, the long-standing consensus on the need to limit corporate campaign spending should outweigh the wooden application of judge-made rules."); District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 680 n.39 (2008) (Stevens, J., dissenting) ("What impact the Court's unjustified entry into this thicket will have on that ongoing debate--or indeed on the Court itself--is a matter that future historians will no doubt discuss at length. It is, however, clear to me that adherence to a policy of judicial restraint would be far wiser than the bold decision announced today.").
- Introduction: Interpreting the Constitution Generally to Introduction: Historical Practices and Constitutional Interpretation.
- 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803).
- Id. at 180.
- See, e.g., Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 264, 430 (1821); Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 14 U.S. (1 Wheat.) 304, 362 (1816); Fletcher v. Peck, 10 U.S. (6 Cranch) 87, 139 (1810).
- Id. The Court first struck down an action of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government as unconstitutional in Little v. Barreme, 6 U.S. (2 Cranch) 170, 177-79 (1804). The Court first struck down a state law as unconstitutional in Fletcher v. Peck. See 10 U.S. at 139.
- The term "judicial review" refers to "a court's power to review the actions of other branches or levels of government [, and especially] the courts' power to invalidate legislative and executive actions as being unconstitutional." Black's Law Dictionary 976 (10th ed. 2014).
- Professor Keith Whittington has distinguished between the concepts of "constitutional interpretation" and "constitutional construction." In an influential book on the subject, he wrote that both interpretation and construction of the Constitution "seek to elaborate a meaning somehow already present in the text." However, constitutional interpretation relies on traditional legal tools that look to internal aspects of the Constitution (e.g., text and structure) to ascertain meaning, whereas constitutional construction supplements the meaning derived from such traditional interpretive methods with materials outside of the text (e.g., moral principles or pragmatic considerations) "where the text is so broad or so undetermined as to be incapable of faithful but exhaustive reduction to legal rules." Keith E. Whittington, Constitutional Construction: Divided Powers and Constitutional Meaning 1, 5-7 (1999).
- Erwin Chemerinsky, Constitutional Law 11 (4th ed. 2013).
- For example, the Constitution provides a clear, bright-line rule that individuals who have not yet "attained to the Age of thirty five Years" are ineligible to be President. See Art. II, Sec. 1, Clause 5 Qualifications.
- Chemerinsky, supra note here, at 11; Cass R. Sunstein, The Partial Constitution 93-94 (1993).
- Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms.
- See District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 573-619, 635-36 (2008) (examining historical sources to determine the original meaning of the Second Amendment).
- Laurence H. Tribe, The Invisible Constitution 1-4 (Geoffrey R. Stone ed., 2008).
- The Court resolved this question in Riley v. California, holding that a warrant is needed to search the contents of a cellphone incident to an individual's arrest. See 573 U.S. 373, 104-03 (2014).
- Harry H. Wellington, Interpreting the Constitution: The Supreme Court and the Process of Adjudication 3 (1990).
- Professor Philip Bobbitt defines a modality for interpreting the Constitution as "the way in which we characterize a form of expression as true." Philip Bobbitt, Constitutional Interpretation 11 (1991). See also Richard H. Fallon, Jr., Stare Decisis and the Constitution: An Essay on Constitutional Methodology, 76 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 570, 592 (2001) ("The power to say what the Constitution means or requires--recognized since Marbury v. Madison--implies a power to determine the sources of authority on which constitutional rulings properly rest.") (footnote omitted).
- The President appoints the Justices of the Supreme Court, who serve for life terms unless impeached and removed from office. Art. II, Sec. 2, Clause 2 Advice and Consent; id. art. III, § 1.
- See, e.g., Hon. Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law 37-41, 44-47 (Amy Gutmann ed., 1997) [hereinafter Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation] ("The ascendant school of constitutional interpretation affirms the existence of what is called the Living Constitution, a body of law that . . . grows and changes from age to age, in order to meet the needs of a changing society. And it is the judges who determine those needs and 'find' that changing law.").
- Richard H. Fallon, Jr., A Constructivist Coherence Theory of Constitutional Interpretation, 100 Harv. L. Rev. 1189, 1211 (1987) (footnote omitted).
- Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation, supra note here, at 44-47.
- E.g., Paul Brest et al., Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking: Cases and Materials 54-55 (2006) (discussing the argument that the Constitution should "be interpreted to facilitate the performance of government functions"); Hon. William J. Brennan, Jr., The Constitution of the United States: Contemporary Ratification, 27 S. Tex. L. Rev. 433, 436 (1986) ("A position that upholds constitutional claims only if they were within the specific contemplation of the Framers in effect establishes a presumption of resolving textual ambiguities against the claim of constitutional right. . . . Those who would restrict claims of right to the values of 1789 specifically articulated in the Constitution turn a blind eye to social progress and eschew adaption of overarching principles to changes of social circumstance."); Hon. Stephen Breyer, Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution 25 (2008) ("[O]ur constitutional history has been a quest for . . . workable democratic government protective of individual personal liberty. . . . And . . . this constitutional understanding helps interpret the Constitution--in a way that helps to resolve problems related to modern government.").
- See 1 Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law 32 (3d ed. 2000) ("[T]he subject and substance of constitutional law in the end remains the language of the United States Constitution itself and the decisions and opinions of the United States Supreme Court. Modes of interpretation are means--however intricate--of explicating this subject and substance."). As discussed below, whether any particular source of meaning may serve as a proper basis for interpreting the Constitution is subject to debate.
- Philip Bobbitt, Constitutional Fate: Theory of the Constitution 6-7 (1982). This essay does not examine the potential role of politics in judicial decision making. See, e.g., Lee Epstein & Thomas G. Walker, Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties, and Justice 22 (8th ed. 2013).
- This essay does not provide an exhaustive list of the modes of interpretation. There is unlikely to be agreement on which methods such a list would include. See Bobbitt, supra note here, at 8.
- See also Fallon, supra note here, at 592; Sunstein, supra note here, at 95 ("It is impossible to interpret any written text without resort to principles external to that text.").
- For example, in New York v. United States, the Court held that Congress could not directly compel states to participate in a federal regulatory program. 505 U.S. 144, 188 (1992). In so holding, the majority opinion relied upon the text of the Tenth Amendment; historical sources; the structural relationship that the Constitution establishes between the Federal Government and states; and judicial precedent, among other sources. Id. at 174-83.
- See Hon. Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law 23-38 (Amy Gutmann ed., 1997) [hereinafter Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation].
- See id.
- See id. at 23.
- Lee Epstein & Thomas G. Walker, Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties, and Justice 26 (8th ed. 2013). For additional examples of the Court's use of a textualist approach, see Introduction: Original Meaning and Constitutional Interpretation.
- Erwin Chemerinsky, Constitutional Law 16 (4th ed. 2013); Laurence H. Tribe, The Invisible Constitution 2-4 (Geoffrey R. Stone ed., 2008); Sotirios A. Barber, On What the Constitution Means 9 (1984).
- 356 U.S. 86, 100-04 (1958) (plurality opinion). Justice William Brennan, providing the fifth and deciding vote in Trop, did not base his decision on the Eighth Amendment, instead concluding that denationalization exceeded Congress's war powers. Id. at 105-14 (Brennan, J., concurring).
- Id. at 99-101 (plurality opinion).
- Id. at 100-03 (stating that the Eighth Amendment "must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society").
- Epstein & Walker, supra note here, at 25-26.
- First Amendment Fundamental Freedoms. Justice Black once wrote that the First Amendment's statement that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" amounted to an "absolute command . . . that no law shall be passed by Congress abridging freedom of speech or the press." Hon. Hugo LaFayette Black, A Constitutional Faith 45-46 (1968). This form of textualism is sometimes referred to as pure textualism or literalism. Epstein & Walker, supra note here, at 26. Justice Antonin Scalia, who was both a textualist and an originalist, criticized this sort of "strict constructionist" approach to textualism. He wrote that a "text should not be construed strictly, and it should not be construed leniently; it should be construed reasonably, to contain all that it fairly means." Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation, supra note here, at 23.
- 341 U.S. 494 (1951).
- Id. at 509, 513-17.
- Id. at 580 (Black, J., dissenting) ("At least as to speech in the realm of public matters, I believe that the 'clear and present danger' test does not 'mark the furthermost constitutional boundaries of protected expression,' but does 'no more than recognize a minimum compulsion of the Bill of Rights.'") (citation omitted).
- 381 U.S. 479 (1965).
- Id. at 485-86.
- Id. at 507-27 (Black, J., dissenting).
- Id. at 510.
- Epstein & Walker, supra note here, at 26. However, some textualist approaches may allow for consideration of contemporary values. For example, approaches based on present textual meaning may allow for consideration of these values to the extent that they have become incorporated in modern understandings of phrases in the Constitution (e.g., "cruel and unusual punishment"). Trop, 356 U.S. at 100-03; Philip Bobbitt, Constitutional Fate: Theory of the Constitution 36 (1982).
- Epstein & Walker, supra note here, at 26; Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation, supra note here, at 37-41, 44-47.
- See Hon. William H. Rehnquist, The Notion of a Living Constitution, 54 Tex. L. Rev. 693, 695-97 (1976) ("The ultimate source of authority in this Nation, Marshall said, is not Congress, not the states, not for that matter the Supreme Court of the United States. The people are the ultimate source of authority; they have parceled out the authority that originally resided entirely with them by adopting the original Constitution and by later amending it.").
- Bobbitt, supra note here, at 37.
- McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316, 407 (1819) ("A constitution, to contain an accurate detail of all the subdivisions of which its great powers will admit, and of all the means by which they may be carried into execution, would partake of the prolixity of a legal code, and could scarcely be embraced by the human mind"); Epstein & Walker, supra note here, at 26.
- Bobbitt, supra note here, at 38; Tribe, supra note here, at 1-4.
- Cf. Bobbitt, supra note here, at 26.
- Id. at 24, 37-38.
- Gregory E. Maggs & Peter J. Smith, Constitutional Law: A Contemporary Approach 39 (3d ed. 2015).
- Id. at 17; Robert H. Bork, Tradition and Morality in Constitutional Law (The Francis Boyer Lectures on Public Policy) 10 (1984) ("[T]he framers' intentions with respect to freedoms are the sole legitimate premise from which constitutional analysis may proceed.").
- Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 136 (1926); Hon. Antonin Scalia, Originalism: The Lesser Evil, 57 U. Cin. L. Rev. 849, 852 (1989) [hereinafter Scalia, Originalism].
- 272 U.S. 52.
- Id. at 176.
- Id. at 109-21.
- Id. at 116.
- Hon. Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law 44-45, 166 (Amy Gutmann ed., 1997) [hereinafter Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation].
- 554 U.S. 570 (2008).
- Id. at 635-36.
- Id. at 573-619.
- Maggs & Smith, supra note here, at 18.
- Paul Brest, The Misconceived Quest for the Original Understanding, 60 B.U. L. Rev. 204, 204 (1980) (discussing arguments made by supporters of originalism). Proponents of original meaning generally oppose the use of foreign law to establish the original meaning of the Constitution unless it is English common law that predates the Founding era. See Knight v. Florida, 528 U.S. 990 (1999) (Thomas, J., concurring); Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815, 868 n.4 (1988) (Scalia, J., dissenting) ("But where there is not first a settled consensus among our own people, the views of other nations, however enlightened the Justices of this Court may think them to be, cannot be imposed upon Americans through the Constitution."); Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 118 (1926) (discussing when English common law could be relevant to original meaning). Treaties to which the United States is party (or customary international law that is incorporated into domestic law) might be cited by a proponent of original meaning when interpreting the Constitution. See Ganesh Sitaraman, The Use and Abuse of Foreign Law in Constitutional Interpretation, 32 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol'y 653, 689 (2009) ("In cases where the fundamental rights that a court seeks to protect are described in a treaty or convention or are a matter of customary international law, the question is merely whether those rights are incorporated by domestic law.").
- Maggs & Smith, supra note here, at 17.
- Lee Epstein & Thomas G. Walker, Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties, and Justice 27 (8th ed. 2013); Scalia, Originalism, supra note here, at 852, 862-64. A textualist approach based on the original meaning may allow for consideration of contemporary values to the extent that a court finds the original meaning counsels for an application of contemporary values to modern factual circumstances. Maggs & Smith, supra note here, at 36.
- Scalia, Originalism, supra note here, at 852, 862-64.
- Maggs & Smith, supra note here, at 39.
- Epstein & Walker, supra note here, at 28; Maggs & Smith, supra note here, at 40. Furthermore, opponents argue that original meaning is of little use when the provision of the Constitution to be interpreted and applied is broadly worded and open to several meanings, or when the Constitution is silent on an issue. Id. at 20. Arguably the "original meaning" of some provisions of the Constitution (e.g., the Ninth Amendment) contemplates constitutional rights that exist independent of the text, and thus the drafters contemplated that interpreters of the Constitution would consider sources of meaning outside of the text and historical sources from the time of the Founding. See John Hart Ely, Democracy and Distrust: A Theory of Judicial Review 14, 33-40 (1980).
- See Maggs & Smith, supra note here, at 40-41.
- Philip Bobbitt, Constitutional Fate: Theory of the Constitution 10-12 (1982). Justice Scalia acknowledged the limits of historical sources. Scalia, Originalism, supra note here, at 856-57.
- Maggs & Smith, supra note here, at 40-41.
- Darrell A.H. Miller, Text, History, and Tradition: What the Seventh Amendment Can Teach Us About the Second, 122 Yale L.J. 852, 935 (2013) ("Judges are not historians, and so, in addition to the risk that they will not understand the materials they are charged to consult, there is the additional risk that they will not conduct a dispassionate examination of the historical evidence and will simply marshal historical anecdotes to achieve what they have already decided is the preferred outcome.").
- The Nomination of Elena Kagan to Be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States: Hearing Before the S. Comm. on the Judiciary, 111th Cong. 62, pt. 1 (2010) (statement of Elena Kagan in response to a question from Senator Patrick Leahy) ("And I think that [the Framers] laid down--sometimes they laid down very specific rules. Sometimes they laid down broad principles. Either way we apply what they say, what they meant to do. So in that sense, we are all originalists.").
- Maggs & Smith, supra note here, at 21.
- Cass R. Sunstein, The Partial Constitution 103 (1993).
- J. Brennan, Jr., The Constitution of the United States: Contemporary Ratification, 27 S. Tex. L. Rev. 433, 436-37 (1986); Sotirios A. Barber, The Constitution of Judicial Power 7 (1993). For example, it seems possible that many of the ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment would have favored segregation by race and gender. Sunstein, supra note here, at 121.
- C. Herman Pritchett, Constitutional Law of the Federal System 37 (1984).
- Under Article V, two-thirds of the states' legislatures may also call a constitutional convention to propose amendments. See Article V Amending the Constitution.
- Pritchett, supra note here, at 37.
- Michael J. Gerhardt, The Power of Precedent 147-48 (2008) ("[I]t is practically impossible to find any modern Court decision that fails to cite at least some precedents in support."). This essay's concept of "judicial precedent" is limited to prior decisions of the Supreme Court. However, the concept of "precedent" is arguably much broader, encompassing "norms," "historical practices," and "traditions." Id. at 3. For a discussion of the use of historical practice in interpreting the Constitution, see Introduction: Historical Practices and Constitutional Interpretation.
- Philip Bobbitt, Constitutional Fate: Theory of the Constitution 7 (1982); Black's Law Dictionary 1366 (10th ed. 2014) (defining "precedent" as "a decided case that furnishes a basis for determining later cases involving similar facts or issues"). The Court may also rely on commentary on these cases by academics and judges. Id. This essay does not examine in any detail reliance on such commentary or the precedents of state courts or foreign tribunals in constitutional interpretation. See Paul Brest et al., Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking: Cases and Materials 56 (2006).
- Lee Epstein & Thomas G. Walker, Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties, and Justice 29 (8th ed. 2013).
- See Michael J. Gerhardt, The Role of Precedent in Constitutional Decisionmaking and Theory, 60 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 68, 76 (1991) ("Precedents commonly are regarded as a traditional source of constitutional decisionmaking, despite the absence of any clear evidence that they ever have forced the Court into making a decision contrary to what it would rather have decided.") (footnote omitted).
- Gerhardt, supra note here, at 34-35.
- 530 U.S. 428, 431-32 (2000).
- Id. at 443; see also id. at 432 ("We hold that Miranda, being a constitutional decision of this Court, may not be in effect overruled by an Act of Congress, and we decline to overrule Miranda ourselves. We therefore hold that Miranda and its progeny in this Court govern the admissibility of statements made during custodial interrogation in both state and federal courts.").
- 576 U.S. 787, 793-94 (2015).
- Art. I, Sec. 4, Clause 1 Elections Clause.
- Ariz. State Legislature, 576 U.S. at 824.
- Id. at 805 ("Three decisions compose the relevant case law: Ohio ex rel. Davis v. Hildebrant, 241 U.S. 565 (1916); Hawke v. Smith (No. 1); and Smiley v. Holm, 285 U.S. 355 (1932).").
- Id. at 805 (citation omitted).
- Bobbitt, supra note here, at 42.
- "Stare decisis" refers to the "doctrine of precedent, under which a court must follow earlier judicial decisions when the same points arise again in litigation." Black's Law Dictionary 1626 (10th ed. 2014).
- See Gerhardt, supra note here, at 70-71 (discussing arguments in support of the use of precedent).
- Epstein & Walker, supra note here, at 29; Gerhardt, supra note here, at 85-87.
- Henry Paul Monaghan, Stare Decisis and Constitutional Adjudication, 88 Colum. L. Rev. 723, 749-50 (1988); Richard H. Fallon, Jr., Stare Decisis and the Constitution: An Essay on Constitutional Methodology, 76 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 570, 585 (2001).
- Gregory E. Maggs & Peter J. Smith, Constitutional Law: A Contemporary Approach 19 (3d ed. 2015).
- Raoul Berger, Original Intent and Boris Bittker, 66 Ind. L.J. 723, 747 (1991) (citation omitted).
- See, e.g., Burnet v. Coronado Oil & Gas Co., 285 U.S. 393, 406-10 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting) ("[I]n cases involving the Federal Constitution, where correction through legislative action is practically impossible, this court has often overruled its earlier decisions."); Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649, 665 (1944) ("[W]hen convinced of former error, this Court has never felt constrained to follow precedent. In constitutional questions, where correction depends upon amendment and not upon legislative action this Court throughout its history has freely exercised its power to reexamine the basis of its constitutional decisions.").
- Bobbitt, supra note here, at 52.
- 163 U.S. 537 (1896). In Plessy, the Court upheld the constitutionality of a Louisiana law mandating racial segregation in railway cars, determining that "separate but equal" public accommodations did not violate Thirteenth or Fourteenth Amendment guarantees. Id. at 542, 550-51.
- Gerhardt, supra note here, at 35-36.
- Id. at 34-35 ("Applying precedents requires interpreting them, interpreting them frequently entails modifying them, and modifying them often entails extending or contracting them."); Epstein & Walker, supra note here, at 30.
- See Monaghan, supra note here, at 769-70 ("In the interpretation of this written Constitution, we may assume that the founding generation was much attached to the original, publicly shared understanding of the document. Thus, one can make a good case that, as historically understood, the written Constitution was intended to trump not only statutes but case law. This argument is reinforced if one recalls that to the founding generation it was not clear that judicial opinions would need to play such a dominant role in establishing the meaning of the Constitution.") (footnotes omitted).
- Hon. Richard A. Posner, The Problems of Jurisprudence 31 (1990).
- See Hon. Richard A. Posner, Cardozo: A Study in Reputation 28 (1990) (discussing Justice Benjamin Cardozo's views on pragmatism, as reflected in his jurisprudence, as contemplating a method "in which social interests behind competing legal principles are identified and (roughly speaking) weighed against each other to determine how a case lying at the intersection of those principles should be decided"); Hon. Richard A. Posner, What Has Pragmatism to Offer Law?, 63 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1653, 1670 (1990) ("All that a pragmatic jurisprudence really connotes . . . is a rejection of a concept of law as grounded in permanent principles and realized in logical manipulations of those principles, and a determination to use law as an instrument for social ends.").
- Justice Byron White often argued that the Court should adopt a functionalist approach in separation-of-powers cases by considering the extent to which a particular reading of the Constitution would promote a workable government. See, e.g., Immigr. & Naturalization Serv. v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 984 (White, J., dissenting) ("It is long-settled that Congress may 'exercise its best judgment in the selection of measures, to carry into execution the constitutional powers of the government,' and 'avail itself of experience, to exercise its reason, and to accommodate its legislation to circumstances.'") (quoting McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316, 415-16, 420 (1819)); William J. Wagner, Balancing as Art: Justice White and the Separation of Powers, 52 Cath. U. L. Rev. 957, 962 (2003) ("Where he encountered silence in the constitutional text, Justice White consistently deferred to congressional judgments on the best structure and functioning of government. The judiciary's role in these cases was simply to unmask any congressional attempts to deprive another branch of its constitutional power, not to apply formulaic rules.").
- Paul Brest et al., Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking: Cases and Materials 54-55 (2006).
- 468 U.S. 897, 926 (1984).
- Id. at 907-08, 922.
- Id. at 922.
- 560 U.S. 126 (2010).
- Id. at 129-32.
- Id. at 135-37; see Art. I, Sec. 8, Clause 17 Enclave Clause.
- 560 U.S. at 149-50. The factors included: "(1) the breadth of the Necessary and Proper Clause, (2) the long history of federal involvement in this arena, (3) the sound reasons for the statute's enactment in light of the Government's custodial interest in safeguarding the public from dangers posed by those in federal custody, (4) the statute's accommodation of state interests, and (5) the statute's narrow scope." Id. at 149.
- Id. at 142-43, 149-50.
- Id. at 149.
- Philip Bobbitt, Constitutional Fate: Theory of the Constitution 7 (1982); Brest et al., supra note here, at 55.
- Alexander M. Bickel, The Least Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics 199-201 (1962). Alternatively, the court could rule on the merits on narrow grounds. Cass R. Sunstein, One Case at a Time: Judicial Minimalism on the Supreme Court ix-xiv (2001).
- Brest et al., supra note here, at 55.
- 369 U.S. 186 (1962).
- Id. at 231-37, 266-68. The majority opinion announced a standard to determine when a case presents a political question not suitable for resolution by the courts. See id. at 217.
- See id. at 208-09.
- Bobbitt, supra note here, at 61; Brest et al., supra note here, at 54-55.
- Hon. Stephen Breyer, Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution 11-12 (2008).
- See Hon. Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law 45-47 (Amy Gutmann ed., 1997).
- See id.
- Gerald Gunther, The Subtle Vices of the "Passive Virtues"--A Comment on Principle and Expediency in Judicial Review, 64 Colum. L. Rev. 1, 15-16, 21-23 (1964).
- Some scholars refer to the general moral or ethical principles underlying the text of the Constitution as the "ethos of the law." Philip Bobbitt, Constitutional Fate: Theory of the Constitution 142 (1982).
- Id. at 126.
- Id. at 162.
- Id. at 142.
- 539 U.S. 558, 578 (2003).
- Fourteenth Amend., Section 1 Rights.
- Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 562.
- See id. at 578.
- 347 U.S. 497 (1954).
- Id. at 498-99 & n.1 (citing Brown v. Bd. of Educ., 347 U.S. 483 (1954)).
- Id.; see also Art. I, Sec. 8, Clause 16 Organizing Militias.
- Fifth Amendment Rights of Persons; Bolling, 347 U.S. at 498-500.
- 347 U.S. at 499.
- Id. at 499-500.
- Hadley Arkes, Beyond the Constitution 19 (1990).
- Philip Bobbitt, Constitutional Fate: Theory of the Constitution 106 (1982).
- Sotirios A. Barber, On What the Constitution Means 40 (1984) (discussing the view that the Constitution "marks out 'lines of growth' toward the real values of the framers and away from those of their views and attitudes that were inconsistent with their aspirations" (citing John Hart Ely, Constitutional Interpretivism: Its Allure and Impossibility, 53 Ind. L.J. 399, 410-14 (1978))).
- John Hart Ely, Democracy and Distrust: A Theory of Judicial Review 1 (1980).
- Bobbitt, supra note here, at 102.
- Arkes, supra note here, at 60-62.
- Bobbitt, supra note here, at 137.
- Id. at 138.
- Id. at 139; Ely, supra note here, at 59.
- Ely, supra note here, at 4-5.
- See id.
- Philip Bobbitt, Constitutional Fate: Theory of the Constitution 94 (1982).
- 431 U.S. 494, 506 (1977).
- Id. at 499-504 (footnote omitted).
- 319 U.S. 624 (1943).
- Id. at 642.
- Id. at 640-41.
- Id. at 642.
- Cf. Introduction: Moral Reasoning and Constitutional Interpretation, at notes here-here.
- Cf. Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815, 869 n.4 (1988) (Scalia, J., dissenting) ("The plurality's reliance upon Amnesty International's account of what it pronounces to be civilized standards of decency in other countries . . . is totally inappropriate as a means of establishing the fundamental beliefs of this Nation. . . . We must never forget that it is a Constitution for the United States of America that we are expounding.").
- See Introduction: Moral Reasoning and Constitutional Interpretation, at notes here-here.
- Cf. Introduction: Moral Reasoning and Constitutional Interpretation, at notes here-here.
- Charles L. Black, Jr., Structure and Relationship in Constitutional Law 7 (1969) [hereinafter Black, Structure and Relationship].
- John F. Manning, Separation of Powers as Ordinary Interpretation, 124 Harv. L. Rev. 1939, 1942-44 (2011); Peter L. Strauss, Formal and Functional Approaches to Separation-of-Powers Questions--A Foolish Inconsistency?, 72 Cornell L. Rev. 488, 489 (1987) ("The Supreme Court has vacillated over the years between using a formalistic approach to separation-of-powers issues grounded in the perceived necessity of maintaining three distinct branches of government (and consequently appearing to draw rather sharp boundaries), and a functional approach that stresses core function and relationship, and permits a good deal of flexibility when these attributes are not threatened.") (footnote omitted).
- Immigr. & Naturalization Serv. v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983).
- Id. at 923, 946.
- Id. at 952, 954-55, 964 n.7.
- 514 U.S. 779 (1995).
- Id. at 783. The Constitution imposes qualifications regarding minimum age, citizenship, and residency of a Member of the House or Senate, but it does not contain language expressly imposing term limits on Members. Art. I, Sec. 2, Clause 2 Qualifications (qualifications for Members of the House of Representatives); id. art. I, § 3, cl. 3 (qualifications for Senators).
- U.S. Term Limits, 514 U.S. at 783.
- Id. at 783, 822, 837-38; Kathleen M. Sullivan, Comment, Dueling Sovereignties: U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 109 Harv. L. Rev. 78, 88 (1995) ("The majority and the dissent deduced opposite formal structural axioms from the founding. To the majority, the founding was a 'revolutionary' act that replaced a confederation of sovereign states with a 'National Government' in which the 'representatives owe primary allegiance not to the people of a State, but to the people of the Nation.'").
- U.S. Term Limits, 514 U.S. at 783, 822, 837-38. The Court also determined that the sovereign powers possessed by the states prior to the American Revolution did not include the power to establish additional qualifications for congressional service. Id. at 802.
- Michael C. Dorf, Interpretive Holism and the Structural Method, or How Charles Black Might Have Thought About Campaign Finance Reform and Congressional Timidity, 92 Geo. L.J. 833, 837 (2004); Strauss, supra note here, at 489.
- See Manning, supra note here, at 1942-44.
- 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316 (1819).
- Id. at 425.
- Id. at 411-12; see Art. I, Sec. 8, Clause 17 Enclave Clause.
- U.S. at 419-21.
- Id. at 409.
- See Manning, supra note here, at 1942-44, 1950-52, 1958-60. See also Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 116 (1926).
- Manning, supra note here, at 1958-60.
- Immigr. & Naturalization Serv. v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 952, 54-55 (1983).
- Id. at 951.
- Manning, supra note here, at 1950-52.
- 576 U.S. 1 (2015).
- Id. at 31-32.
- Id. at 14.
- 487 U.S. 654 (1988).
- Id. at 659-60 (internal quotation marks omitted).
- Id. at 663.
- Cf. Humphrey's Ex'r v. United States, 295 U.S. 602, 629 (1935) ("We think it plain under the Constitution that illimitable power of removal is not possessed by the President in respect of officers [subject to removal 'for cause'].").
- 487 U.S. at 689-97.
- Id. at 693.
- Id. at 699, 703-04 (Scalia, J., dissenting).
- Id. at 705-10.
- Philip Bobbitt, Constitutional Fate: Theory of the Constitution 74 (1982).
- Black, Structure and Relationship, supra note here, at 13, 22.
- Id. at 46.
- 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 35, 39, 49 (1868).
- Black, Structure and Relationship, supra note here, at 27.
- Id. at 13, 22.
- Bobbitt, supra note here, at 84; Cass R. Sunstein, The Partial Constitution 120 (1993).
- Bobbitt, supra note here, at 85.
- Id. at 85-86; Alexander M. Bickel, The Morality of Consent 53 (1975).
- Paul Brest et al., Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking: Cases and Materials 54-55 (2006).
- E.g., McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316, 401 (1819) ("[A] doubtful question, one on which human reason may pause, and the human judgment be suspended, in the decision of which the great principles of liberty are not concerned, but the respective powers of those who are equally the representatives of the people, are to be adjusted; if not put at rest by the practice of the government, ought to receive a considerable impression from that practice."); see also PHH Corp. v. Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau, 839 F.3d 1, 21-25 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (summarizing Supreme Court cases using historical practice as a method of constitutional interpretation in separation-of-powers cases).
- 573 U.S. 513 (2014).
- Id. at 21.
- 576 U.S. 1 (2015).
- Id. at 29.
- Id. at 20-21.
- 463 U.S. 783 (1983).
- Id. at 784.
- Id. at 788-89.
- Id. at 786.
- The arguments in the following three paragraphs draw heavily from the sections supra on Introduction: Original Meaning and Constitutional Interpretation, Introduction: Judicial Precedent and Constitutional Interpretation, and Introduction: Moral Reasoning and Constitutional Interpretation.
- Jonathan Turley, Constitutional Adverse Possession: Recess Appointments and the Role of Historical Practice in Constitutional Interpretation, 2013 Wis. L. Rev. 965, 969 (2013) ("[Functionalism] is a model of interpretation that invites the use of historical practice as self-affirming support for meaning.").
- Cf. Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 610 (1952) (Frankfurter, J., concurring) ("The Constitution is a framework for government. Therefore the way the framework has consistently operated fairly establishes that it has operated according to its true nature. Deeply embedded traditional ways of conducting government cannot supplant the Constitution or legislation, but they give meaning to the words of a text or supply them."); see also Turley, supra note here, at 969.
- Cf. Michael J. Gerhardt, The Role of Precedent in Constitutional Decisionmaking and Theory, 60 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 68, 70-71, 86-87 (1991) (discussing similar arguments in support of the use of judicial precedent in constitutional interpretation).
- Curtis A. Bradley & Neil S. Siegel, After Recess: Historical Practice, Textual Ambiguity, and Constitutional Adverse Possession, 2014 Sup. Ct. Rev. 1, 40 ("[I]nterests in stability and related rule-of-law considerations, such as consistency, predictability, reliance, and transparency, also can be advanced by adhering to long-standing practices, regardless of whether they date to the early post-Founding period.").
- Cf. Lee Epstein & Thomas G. Walker, Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties, and Justice 28 (8th ed. 2013) (reciting arguments made against original meaning as a method of constitutional interpretation).
- Bradley & Siegel, supra note here, at 41-44; Bobbitt, supra note here, at 11 (summarizing arguments made against original meaning).
- Alfred H. Kelly, Clio and the Court: An Illicit Love Affair, 1965 Sup. Ct. Rev. 119, 122 & n.13 (defining "law office history" as "the selection of data favorable to the position being advanced without regard to or concern for contradictory data or proper evaluation of the relevance of the data proffered").
- Bradley & Siegel, supra note here, at 27-29.
- Cf. J. Brennan, Jr., The Constitution of the United States: Contemporary Ratification, 27 S. Tex. L. Rev. 433, 436-37 (1986); Sotirios A. Barber, The Constitution of Judicial Power 7 (1993).
- Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. Canning, 573 U.S. 513, 572 (2014) (Scalia, J., concurring in the judgment) ("[P]olicing the 'enduring structure' of constitutional government when the political branches fail to do so is 'one of the most vital functions of this Court.'") (citation omitted); id. at 47-48 ("Even if the Executive could accumulate power through adverse possession by engaging in a consistent and unchallenged practice over a long period of time, the oft-disputed practices at issue here would not meet that standard. Nor have those practices created any justifiable expectations that could be disappointed by enforcing the Constitution's original meaning. There is thus no ground for the majority's deference to the unconstitutional recess-appointment practices of the Executive Branch.").
- See John F. Manning, Separation of Powers as Ordinary Interpretation, 124 Harv. L. Rev. 1939, 1943 (2011) ("[F]unctionalists believe that Congress has substantially free rein to innovate, as long as a particular scheme satisfies the functional aims of the constitutional structure, taken as a whole.").