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Tabloid Constitutionalism: How a Bill Doesn't Become a Law

Brian C. Kalt

Michigan State University College of Law

Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 96, No. 6, 2008
MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-12

What does it take to get Congress to pass a law? To get a judge to declare a statute unconstitutional? To get your law-review article featured in the National Enquirer? Based on one data point, at least, I can say that two of those three things are difficult.

This piece is a follow-up to my 2005 Georgetown Law Journal article, The Perfect Crime. Back then, I argued that there is a fifty-square-mile swath of Idaho - a so-called zone of death - where one can commit crimes with impunity.

In this piece, I first discuss the attention that The Perfect Crime generated: it was covered not just by the Enquirer but by mainstream media, and it inspired a best-selling novel.

I next discuss my efforts to lobby Congress. I initially tried to get Congress to change the law. When that failed, I tried to get Congress to acknowledge my existence. That effort essentially failed as well, at least until a senator read the aforementioned novel.

Finally, I discuss the treatment of my theory in an actual criminal case where the defendant invoked it. The handling of the theory there was almost as dispiriting as Congress's.

The theory I set out in the Perfect Crime had plenty of limitations and counterarguments; it is not my intention in this piece to criticize people for disagreeing with me. Rather, my intention is just to recount one case study - amusing in some parts, infuriating in others - of the American system of government and law.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 14

Keywords: Juries, Sixth Amendment, Congress, Criminal procedure, Constitutional law, Legislative Process, Legislation, Judicial Decisionmaking

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Date posted: May 23, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Kalt, Brian C., Tabloid Constitutionalism: How a Bill Doesn't Become a Law. Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 96, No. 6, 2008; MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-12. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1136301

Contact Information

Brian C. Kalt (Contact Author)
Michigan State University College of Law ( email )
318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States
517-432-6987 (Phone)
517-432-6879 (Fax)
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