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Unpublished Paper
The Thirteenth Amendment "Exception" to the State Action Doctrine: An Originalist Reappraisal
ExpressO (2012)
  • Ryan Walters

There is an overwhelming consensus that the Thirteenth Amendment represents an exception to the general rule that the U.S. Constitution does not apply to private actors – the state action doctrine. There has never been an analysis of this assertion using reasonable-observer originalism. As a result, the consensus view on the Thirteenth Amendment threatens to undermine a key feature of the Constitution – that it provides rules of conduct solely for governmental actors.

This Essay uses reasonable-observer originalism to examine the text and context of the Thirteenth Amendment. This is the first analysis that finds that the Thirteenth Amendment is not the aberration that most have claimed; it is consistent with the state action doctrine and only applies to governmental actors. However, Section 2 of the Thirteenth Amendment allows Congress to act on private individuals when a state has refused to enforce its generally-applicable laws protecting bodily integrity and freedom from restraint. Both aspects of this analysis demonstrate how the case law that has arisen from the Thirteenth Amendment are in harmony with the revised view set forth in this Essay.

Publication Date
September 7, 2012
Citation Information
Ryan Walters. "The Thirteenth Amendment "Exception" to the State Action Doctrine: An Originalist Reappraisal" ExpressO (2012)
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