Problems in Constitutional Theory
This seminar will explore the nature of constitutionality in the American legal system. What is the difference between a constitutional proposition and a non-constitutional proposition? On a certain lay understanding, a constitutional proposition would be (1) grounded in the written Constitution, (2) fundamental to the legal system, (3) entrenched against change except through Article V amendment, and (4) enforceable by the courts. But in fact, many constitutional propositions lack one or more of these characteristics, and none of these characteristics describes all propositions that properly socialized American lawyers call "constitutional." This seminar will investigate this puzzle, aiming to discern the scope and content of what we might call the "operative constitution." Key issues include the role of the written Constitution, the nature of entrenchment, and the possibility of implications for constitutional decisionmaking.
Each student in the seminar will be required to write two short papers and one longer paper. The short papers, which shall not exceed five pages, will address the reading in particular weeks and will be circulated to all members of the seminar in advance of the relevant week's discussion. The longer paper, which shall not exceed 20 pages, will be due at the end of the semester. The longer paper must be original work, meaning that it must either contain an original argument or else support a known argument in a new way.
A recent syllabus for this course can be found here: https://umich.box.com/s/u5eqewkbg5qfvro28jpt6hupwmfwc1ok
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