From the blurb for Kim Wehle, How to Read the Constitution–and Why (Harper, June 25, 2019):

The Constitution is the most significant document in America. But do you fully understand what this valuable document means to you? In How to Read the Constitution and Why, legal expert and educator Kimberly Wehle spells out in clear, simple, and common sense terms what is in the Constitution, and most importantly, what it means. In compelling terms, she describes how the Constitution’s protections are eroding—not only in express terms but by virtue of the many legal and social norms that no longer shore up its legitimacy—and why every American needs to heed to this “red flag” moment in our democracy.

This invaluable—and timely—resource covers nearly every significant aspect of the Constitution, from the powers of the President and how the three branches of government are designed to hold each other accountable, to what it means to have individual rights—including free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to an abortion. Finally, the book explains why it has never been more important than now for all Americans to know how our Constitution works—and why, if we don’t step in to protect it now, we could lose its protections forever.

How to Read the Constitution and Why is essential reading for anyone who cares about maintaining an accountable government and the individual freedoms that the Constitution enshrines for everyone in America—regardless of political party.

From the blurb for Lawrence Lessig, Fidelity & Constraint: How the Supreme Court Has Read the American Constitution (Oxford UP, 2019):

The fundamental fact about our Constitution is that it is old — the oldest written constitution in the world. The fundamental challenge for interpreters of the Constitution is how to read that old document over time.

In Fidelity & Constraint, legal scholar Lawrence Lessig explains that one of the most basic approaches to interpreting the constitution is the process of translation. Indeed, some of the most significant shifts in constitutional doctrine are products of the evolution of the translation process over time. In every new era, judges understand their translations as instances of “interpretive fidelity,” framed within each new temporal context.

Yet, as Lessig also argues, there is a repeatedly occurring countermove that upends the process of translation. Throughout American history, there has been a second fidelity in addition to interpretive fidelity: what Lessig calls “fidelity to role.” In each of the cycles of translation that he describes, the role of the judge — the ultimate translator — has evolved too. Old ways of interpreting the text now become illegitimate because they do not match up with the judge’s perceived role. And when that conflict occurs, the practice of judges within our tradition has been to follow the guidance of a fidelity to role. Ultimately, Lessig not only shows us how important the concept of translation is to constitutional interpretation, but also exposes the institutional limits on this practice.

The first work of both constitutional and foundational theory by one of America’s leading legal minds, Fidelity & Constraint maps strategies that both help judges understand the fundamental conflict at the heart of interpretation whenever it arises and work around the limits it inevitably creates.

From the abstract for Sophia Z. Lee, Our Administered Constitution: Administrative Constitutionalism from the Founding to the Present (University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Forthcoming):

This article argues that administrative agencies have been primary interpreters and implementers of the federal Constitution throughout the history of the United States, although the scale and scope of this “administrative constitutionalism” has changed significantly over time as the balance of opportunities and constraints has shifted. Courts have nonetheless cast an increasingly long shadow over the administered Constitution. In part, this is because of the well-known expansion of judicial review in the 20th century. But the shift has as much to do with changes in the legal profession, legal theory, and lawyers’ roles in agency administration. The result is that administrative constitutionalism may still be the most frequent form of constitutional governance, but it has grown, paradoxically, more suspect even as it has also become far more dependent on and deferential to judicial interpretations.

This article also contends that the history of administrative constitutionalism poses a problem for critics of the modern administrative state who seek to restore administrative law to its 19th-century foundations. These critics hold out constitutional law as uniquely important; it is what powers their arguments that the United States should turn back the clock. And they prefer 19th-century agencies because they depict them as exercising little consequential legal power. But this history suggests that those agencies had the first and often final word on the Constitution’s meaning. These critics also assume that reinstating the 19th-century constitutional order would empower courts to more closely scrutinize agency action. The history presented here instead suggests that returning to 19th-century administrative law would all but eliminate judicial review of the constitutionality of agency actions. Indeed, the burgeoning history of administrative constitutionalism suggests that anyone who wants to ensure that courts review the constitutionality of agency action has to appeal to theories that are rooted in constitutional change not origins, and in 20th- not 19th-century administrative law and judicial practice.

From the abstract for Bill Treanor, Framer’s Intent: Gouverneur Morris, the Committee of Style, and the Creation of the Federalist Constitution (2019):

At the end of the proceedings of the federal constitutional convention, the delegates appointed the Committee on Style and Arrangement to bring together the textual provisions that the convention had previously agreed to and to prepare a final constitution. Pennsylvania delegate Gouverneur Morris was assigned to draft the document for the committee, and, with few revisions and little debate, the convention subsequently adopted the Committee’s proposed constitution. For more than two hundred years, questions have been raised as to whether Morris as drafter covertly made changes in the text in order to advance his constitutional vision, but the legal scholars and historians studying the convention have concluded that Morris was an honest scrivener. No prior article, however, has systematically compared the Committee’s draft to the previously adopted resolutions or discussed the implications of those changes for constitutional law. This article reveals how many changes Morris made to the text delegates had previously agreed to and how important those changes were (and are). It shows that many of the central elements of the Constitution (including the Preamble; the basic Article I, Article II, and Article III structure; and the contract clause) were wholly or largely the product of the Committee’s work. In total, Morris made twelve significant changes to the Constitution, and these textual changes advanced his constitutional goals, including strengthening the national government, the executive, and the judiciary; protecting private property; and fighting the spread of slavery. Finally, it shows that, in central debates in the early republic, Federalists, and, notably, fellow committee member Alexander Hamilton repeatedly drew on language crafted by the Committee as they fought for their expansive vision of the Constitution. In revising the constitutional text, Morris created the basis for what was to become the Hamiltonian reading of the Constitution.

This history has significant implications for modern constitutional law. While the Supreme Court has never been presented with a case that reveals the extent of the Committee’s changes, in four cases it has confronted situations in which the Committee’s text arguably had a different meaning than the provision previously adopted by the convention, and the Court has consistently treated the Committee’s work as substantively meaningless and concluded that the prior resolutions were controlling. That approach should be rejected because it is at odds with the majoritarian premise of constitutional ratification by “the people.” The text that was ratified is controlling. At the same time, in most circumstances, Morris’s language was ambiguous. A modern public meaning originalist approach leads to the conclusion that Morris’s revisions made possible alternate readings of the Constitution: it supported what was to become the Federalist approach, but did not prevent Republican textualist readings. On important contemporary issues, focus on Morris’s text makes us aware of originalist understandings of the text that have been frequently dismissed or wholly forgotten; although it does not eliminate the originalist basis for narrower readings, that focus provides new originalist support for broad understandings of congressional, judicial, and presidential power and for protection of private property.

From the abstract for Lawrence Solum, Originalism versus Living Constitutionalism: The Conceptual Structure of the Great Debate  Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 113, No. 6, 2019:

This Essay explores the conceptual structure of the great debate about “originalism” and “living constitutionalism.” The core of the great debate is substantive and addresses the normative question, “What is the best theory of constitutional interpretation and construction?” That question leads to others, including questions about the various forms and variations of originalism and living constitutionalism. Originalists argue that the meaning of the constitutional text is fixed and that it should bind constitutional actors. Living constitutionalists contend that constitutional law can and should evolve in response to changing circumstances and values. This Essay advances a metalinguistic proposal for classifying theories as originalist or living constitutionalist and suggests that some constitutional theories are hybrids, combining elements of both theories.

From the abstract for Lee J. Strang, The Declaration of Independence: No Special Role In Constitutional Interpretation (Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 42, No. 1, 2018):

The Declaration of Independence is a beautifully written document; it is a potent symbol of our nation’s birth and founding principles; but it does not and should not play a unique role in constitutional interpretation. Instead, the Declaration is one source, among many, of the Constitution’s original meaning. I make three arguments to support this thesis.

First and theoretically, I argue that mainline originalist theory has no analytical space within it for the Declaration to play a special role in constitutional interpretation. To illustrate this, I describe the most prominent conception of originalism—public meaning originalism. Then, I show that public meaning originalism’s process to ascertain the Constitution’s original meaning treats the Declaration as one source of original meaning, and that its importance as a source therefore depends on the empirical-historical question of whether the original meaning in fact did privilege it.

This leads me to my second main argument, based on history. I make three moves to show that the Declaration did not play a unique interpretive role. First, I describe how the Framers and Ratifiers did not use the Declaration as the unique interpretive key to constitutional interpretation. Second, I show that, because the Declaration was inconsistent with the Constitution’s text, it cannot be the interpretive key to the Constitution. Third, I explain that it was only after the Founding, during times of moral crisis, that Americans in various social movements turned to the Declaration to support their out-of-the-mainstream constitutional interpretations. This phenomenon shows that appeals to the Declaration are motived by a desire for political and social change extrinsic to the Constitution.

Third and jurisprudentially, I show that our current constitutional practice does not recognize the Declaration as playing a unique role in constitutional interpretation. I focus on the Constitution’s text, current legal practice, and Supreme Court practice.

From the summary of Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content (R45650, Mar. 27,2019):

Some have argued that Congress should step in to regulate social media sites. Government action regulating internet content would constitute state action that may implicate the First Amendment. In particular, social media providers may argue that government regulations impermissibly infringe on the providers’ own constitutional free speech rights. Legal commentators have argued that when social media platforms decide whether and how to post users’ content, these publication decisions are themselves protected under the First Amendment. There are few court decisions evaluating whether a social media site, by virtue of publishing, organizing, or even editing protected speech, is itself exercising free speech rights. Consequently, commentators have largely analyzed the question of whether the First Amendment protects a social media site’s publication decisions by analogy to other types of First Amendment cases.

From the abstract for David Pozen, Eric L. Talley & Julian Nyarko, A Computational Analysis of Constitutional Polarization (Cornell Law Review, Forthcoming):

This Article is the first to use computational methods to investigate the ideological and partisan structure of constitutional discourse outside the courts. We apply a range of machine-learning and text-analysis techniques to a newly available data set comprising all remarks made on the U.S. House and Senate floors from 1873 to 2016, as well as a collection of more recent newspaper editorials. Among other findings, we demonstrate:

(1) that constitutional discourse has grown increasingly polarized over the past four decades;

(2) that polarization has grown faster in constitutional discourse than in non-constitutional discourse;

(3) that conservative-leaning speakers have driven this trend;

(4) that members of Congress whose political party does not control the presidency or their own chamber are significantly more likely to invoke the Constitution in some, but not all, contexts; and

(5) that contemporary conservative legislators have developed an especially coherent constitutional vocabulary, with which they have come to “own” not only terms associated with the document’s original meaning but also terms associated with textual provisions such as the First Amendment. Above and beyond these concrete contributions, this Article demonstrates the potential for computational methods to advance the study of constitutional history, politics, and culture.

From the abstract for Marc O. DeGirolami, The Traditions of American Constitutional Law (Notre Dame Law Review, Forthcoming):

This article identifies a new method of constitutional interpretation: the use of tradition to inform constitutional meaning. It studies what the Supreme Court means by invoking tradition and whether what it means remains constant across the document and over time. The task is worth pursuing inasmuch as traditional interpretation is pervasive, consistent, and recurrent across the Court’s constitutional doctrine. So, too, are criticisms of traditional interpretation. There are also more immediate reasons to study the role of tradition in constitutional interpretation. The Court’s two newest members, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, have indicated that tradition informs their understanding of constitutional meaning. The study of traditional interpretation seems all the more pressing to understand certain possible jurisprudential moves in the Court’s future.

The article concludes that when the Court interprets traditionally, it signals the presumptive influence of political, legal, or cultural practices of substantial duration for informing constitutional meaning. Traditional interpretation is thus constituted of three elements: (1) a focus on practices, rather than principles, as informing constitutional meaning; (2) a practice’s duration, understood as a composite of its age and continuity; and (3) a practice’s presumptive, but defeasible, interpretive influence. Traditional interpretation’s emphasis on practices that are given tangible form in a people’s lived experience suggests that it is preferable to speak about politically, legally, and culturally specific traditions rather than an abstracted concept of tradition. Hence, “the traditions of American constitutional law.”

The article identifies traditional interpretation as its own method; shows its prevalence and methodological consistency across the domains of constitutional interpretation; isolates and examines its constituent elements, comparing them against other prominent interpretive approaches; and infers and explains the justifications of traditional interpretation from the doctrinal deposit. While there may be some irony about a claim of novelty in an article about tradition, what this article identifies as new is not the invocation of tradition as such, but the isolation of a recurrent and consistent method—traditional interpretation—adopted by the Court across its interpretive work. It aims to bring to light an overlooked and yet frequently used interpretive practice, and to understand its structure, situation, and purpose within the Court’s constitutional doctrine.

From the summary of Constitutional Authority Statements and the Powers of Congress: An Overview (R44729, Mar. 11, 2019):

On January 5, 2011, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to House Rule XII to require that Members state the constitutional basis for Congress’s power to enact the proposed legislation when introducing a bill or joint resolution. (The amendment does not pertain to concurrent or simple resolutions). This Constitutional Authority Statement (CAS) rule, found at House Rule XII, clause 7(c), was subsequently adopted by every subsequent Congress.

A CAS is fundamentally a congressional interpretation of the Constitution, in that House Rule XII requires each Member introducing a piece of legislation to attach a statement that cites the power(s) that allows Congress to enact the legislation.

From the introduction to The Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution (IF11086, Jan. 30, 2019):

Recent litigation involving President Trump has raised a number of legal issues concerning formerly obscure constitutional provisions that prohibit the acceptance or receipt of “emoluments” in certain circumstances. This In Focus provides an overview of these constitutional provisions, highlighting several unsettled legal areas concerning their meaning and scope, and reviewing the status of ongoing litigation against President Trump based on alleged violations of the Emoluments Clauses.

From the abstract for Julian Davis Mortenson, Article II Vests Executive Power, Not the Royal Prerogative, Columbia Law Review, Forthcoming:

Article II of the United States Constitution vests “the executive power” in the President. For more than two hundred years, advocates of presidential power have claimed that this phrase was originally understood to include a bundle of national security and foreign affairs authorities. Their efforts have been highly successful: among constitutional originalists, this so-called Vesting Clause Thesis is now conventional wisdom. But it is also demonstrably wrong.

Based on an exhaustive review of the eighteenth-century bookshelf, this article shows that the ordinary meaning of “executive power” referred unambiguously to a single, discrete, and potent authority: the power to execute law. This enforcement role was constitutionally crucial. Substantively, however, it extended only to the implementation of legal norms created by some other authority. It wasn’t just that the executive power was subject to legislative influence in a crude political sense; rather, the power was conceptually an empty vessel until there were laws or instructions that needed executing.

There was indeed a term of art for the Crown’s non-statutory powers, including its various national security and foreign affairs authorities. But as a matter of well-established legal semantics, that term was “prerogative.” The other elements of prerogative—including those relating to national security and foreign affairs— were possessed in addition to “the executive power” rather than as part of it.

From the abstract for Joel K. Goldstein, Talking Trump and the Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Correcting the Record on Section 4, 21 Journal of Constitutional Law ___ (2018):

The first year of the presidency of Donald J. Trump brought attention to Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the constitutional provision that allows the Vice President and a Cabinet majority to transfer presidential powers and duties from a President who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of his office. Although the ensuing media discussion included many thoughtful contributions, it also produced many mistaken assertions by scholars, journalists and other commentators regarding the importance, scope, operation, and effect of Section 4. These mistakes are troubling because they may produce enduring misunderstanding regarding a provision designed to handle some of the most challenging, traumatic and contentious contingencies that might arise involving an incapacitated President and the transfer of presidential powers and duties to the Vice President. The errors also might provide material for political actors and their supporters to cite and use opportunistically to frustrate the proper use of Section 4. This Article exposes and corrects some of the mistaken assertions that have recently appeared in media discussions. It explores a range of textual, originalist, structural, pragmatic, and other constitutional arguments to shed light on significant, but sometimes misunderstood, questions regarding the importance, scope, operation, and effect of Section 4.

From the abstract for Andrew Kent, Ethan J. Leib & Jed Handelsman Shugerman, ‘Faithful Execution’ and Article II, Harvard Law Review, Forthcoming:

Article II of the U.S. Constitution twice imposes a duty of “faithful execution” on the President, who must “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” and take an oath or affirmation to “faithfully execute the Office of President.” These clauses are cited often, but their background and original meaning have never been fully explored. Courts, the executive branch, and many scholars rely on one or both clauses as support for expansive views of presidential power, for example, to go beyond standing law to defend the nation in emergencies; to withhold documents from Congress or the courts; or to refuse to fully execute statutes on grounds of unconstitutionality or for policy reasons.

This Article is the first to explore the textual roots of these clauses from the time of Magna Carta and medieval England, through colonial America, and up to the original meaning in the Philadelphia Convention and ratification debates. We find that the language of “faithful execution” was for centuries before 1787 very commonly associated with the performance of public and private offices—especially those in which the officer had some control over the public fisc. “Faithful execution” language applied not only to senior government officials but also to a vast number of insignificant officers, too. We contend that it imposed three core requirements on officeholders:

(1) diligent, careful, good faith, and impartial execution of law or office;

(2) a duty not to misuse an office’s funds and or take unauthorized profits; and

(3) a duty not to act ultra vires, beyond the scope of one’s office.

These three duties of fidelity look a lot like fiduciary duties in modern private law. This “fiduciary” reading of the original meaning of the Faithful Execution Clauses might have important implications in modern constitutional law. Our history supports readings of Article II of the Constitution that limit presidents to exercise their power in good faith, for the public interest, and not for reasons of self-dealing, self-protection, or other bad faith, personal reasons. So understood, Article II may thus place some limits on the pardon and removal powers, for example. The history we present also supports readings of Article II that tend to subordinate presidential power to congressional direction, limiting presidential non-enforcement of statutes for policy and perhaps even constitutional reasons, and perhaps constraining agencies’ interpretation of statutes to pursue Congress’s objectives. Our conclusions undermines imperial and prerogative claims for the presidency, claims that are sometimes, in our estimation, improperly traced to dimensions of the clauses requiring faithful execution.

From the blurb for Jonathan Gienapp, The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era (Belknap Press, Oct. 2018):

Americans widely believe that the United States Constitution was created when it was drafted in 1787 and ratified in 1788. But in a shrewd rereading of the founding era, Jonathan Gienapp upends this long-held assumption, recovering the unknown story of American constitutional creation in the decade after its adoption—a story with explosive implications for current debates over constitutional originalism and interpretation.

When the Constitution first appeared, it was shrouded in uncertainty. Not only was its meaning unclear, but so too was its essential nature. Was the American Constitution a written text, or something else? Was it a legal text? Was it finished or unfinished? What rules would guide its interpretation? Who would adjudicate competing readings? As political leaders put the Constitution to work, none of these questions had answers. Through vigorous debates they confronted the document’s uncertainty, and—over time—how these leaders imagined the Constitution radically changed. They had begun trying to fix, or resolve, an imperfect document, but they ended up fixing, or cementing, a very particular notion of the Constitution as a distinctively textual and historical artifact circumscribed in space and time. This means that some of the Constitution’s most definitive characteristics, ones which are often treated as innate, were only added later and were thus contingent and optional.

Here’s the abstract for William Baude & Jud Campbell, Early American Constitutional History: A Source Guide (Oct. 31, 2018): “This is a concise guide to source materials relevant to late 18th-century and early 19th-century constitutional history in the United States, often with accompanying reflections about using these sources in historical and legal scholarship. The guide aims to be useful to those who are just entering the field as well as to more established historians and lawyers who want to keep up with newly available sources.” Recommended.

Just in time for President Trump’s attack on birthright citizenship: Ernest A. Young has posted Dying Constitutionalism and the Fourteenth Amendment, which is forthcoming in the Marquette Law Review:

The notion of a “living Constitution” often rests on an implicit assumption that important constitutional values will “grow” in such a way as to make the Constitution more attractive over time. But there are no guarantees: What can grow can also wither and die. This essay, presented as the 2018 Robert F. Boden Lecture at Marquette University Law School, marks the sesquicentennial of the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification as a powerful charter of liberty and equality for black Americans. But for much of its early history, the Fourteenth Amendment’s meaning moved in reverse, overwhelmed by the end of Reconstruction, the gradual entrenchment of Jim Crow in the South, and the consolidation of racial discrimination in the North. All of the recognized modalities of living constitutionalism—evolving public mores, social movements, electoral outcomes and landmark legislation, and common law development—contributed to constitutional changes that left the Fourteenth Amendment meaning less in the late 19th and early 20th centuries than it did at its ratification. The Amendment’s early history is thus an instance of dying—not living— constitutionalism. It is far from clear, however, that alternative constitutional approaches—such as originalism—could have prevented this constitutional regression. This essay explores how the Fourteenth Amendment got so off track and whether the theory of living constitutionalism can be modified to help it hang on to the Constitution’s core commitments in the face of social change. Ultimately, the essay suggests that constitutional methodology may be less important than constitutional culture in this regard, and that the culture of living constitutionalism ought to emphasize caution over optimism about the inevitability of moral progress. The Fourteenth Amendment’s “lost years” offer precisely the sense of tragedy that might inspire that cultural shift.

Trump called for ending birthright citizenship in his immigration platform during the presidential campaign. Now he has announced that he can achieve that objective by executive order.

Can Trump ban the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born on U.S. soil? The legal challenges would force the courts to decide on a constitutional debate over the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” For more, see Experts weigh in on Trump’s ability to end birthright citizenship on Axios.

Drawing Trump Naked: Curbing the Right of Publicity to Protect Portrayals of Real People, Maryland Law Review, Forthcoming, by Thomas Kadri “argues that to best protect creators and their expressive works under the First Amendment, we must abandon traditional “educative” listener-based models of the First Amendment and instead adopt an approach that also protects the speaker-creator as a central part of enabling public discourse. Failure to adopt this speaker-focused theory in publicity doctrine will perpetuate confusion in the courts and state legislatures, an outcome that will have a chilling effect on creators who seek to portray real people in their work. Yet we must also recognize the privacy interests that publicity rights may serve. As we move into an era of new technology and innovation — from “deep fakes” to revenge porn — this challenge will only intensify. To address it, courts should apply a different framework when publicity rights face off against expressive rights — a framework that not only empowers free expression, but also considers the narrow privacy-based interests that we should all have in preventing certain uses of our images.”