Curriculum Guide · Courses
Constitutional Interpretation Seminar
J.D. Seminar 1193 (cross-listed) | 3 credit hours
Since the founding, Americans have argued with each other over how to interpret the Constitution. In recent years, these arguments have become increasingly complex, as competing theories of constitutional interpretation have grown in number and sophistication. While the debate over the proper theory of constitutional interpretation has become bewildering and inaccessible to many lawyers, however, the stakes have remained high: competing theories of constitutional interpretation can imply radically different accounts of constitutional law. This seminar explores the theory of constitutional interpretation. By examining influential scholarly articles on the topic, we will hope to achieve a better understanding of how courts should (and do) interpret the constitution. We will spend most of the seminar examining the dominant competing theories of constitutional interpretation, including originalism, textualism, representation-reinforcing theories, and pragmatism. But we will also spend some time discussing the broader themes that underlie these competing theories, such as the role of fidelity, the ability of history and language to constrain, and the value of comparative institutional analysis. And we will end the semester by applying these theories and themes to a specific doctrinal question: the appropriate role of the treaty power in our constitutional structure, as raised in Bond v. United States, a case pending before the Supreme Court
Prerequisite: Constitutional Law I. Recommended: Constitutional Law II.
This seminar requires a paper. J.D. students must register for the 3 credit section of the seminar if they wish to write a paper fulfilling the Upperclass Legal Writing Requirement. The paper requirements of the 2 credit section will not fulfill the J.D. Upperclass Legal Writing Requirement.