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Article
Original Meaning and the Precedent Fallback
Journal Articles
  • Randy J Kozel, Notre Dame Law School
Document Type
Article
Publication Date
1-26-2015
Disciplines
Publication Information
68 Vand. L. Rev. 105-157 (2015)
Abstract

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

This Article considers the role of judicial precedent not when it conflicts with the Constitution’s original meaning but rather when the consultation of text and historical evidence is insufficient to resolve a case. In those situations, deference to precedent can serve as a fallback rule of constitutional adjudication. The strengths and weaknesses of the originalist methodology take on a unique valence when a primary commitment to original meaning is coupled with a fallback rule of deference to precedent. Even when the Constitution’s original meaning leaves multiple options available, falling back on precedent can channel judicial discretion and contribute to a stable, impersonal framework of constitutional law.

Citation Information
Randy J Kozel. "Original Meaning and the Precedent Fallback" (2015)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/randy_kozel/9/