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Constitutional Borrowing

Nelson Tebbe

Brooklyn Law School; Cornell Law School

Robert L. Tsai

American University - Washington College of Law

April 23, 2009

Michigan Law Review, Vol. 108, 2010
Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 145
American University, WCL Research Paper No. 09-36

Borrowing from one domain to promote ideas in another domain is a staple of constitutional decisionmaking. Precedents, arguments, concepts, tropes, and heuristics all can be carried across doctrinal boundaries for purposes of persuasion. Yet the practice itself remains underanalyzed. This Article seeks to bring greater theoretical attention to the matter. It defines what constitutional borrowing is and what it is not, presents a typology that describes its common forms, undertakes a principled defense of borrowing, and identifies some of the risks involved. Our examples draw particular attention to places where legal mechanisms and ideas migrate between fields of law associated with liberty, on the one hand, and equality, on the other. We finish by discussing how attentiveness to borrowing may illuminate or improve prominent theories of constitutional lawmaking.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 66

Keywords: constitution, borrowing, First Amendment, Equal Protection, culture, minimalism, living constitutionalism, originalism, liberty, equality

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Date posted: April 20, 2009 ; Last revised: November 23, 2009

Suggested Citation

Tebbe, Nelson and Tsai, Robert L., Constitutional Borrowing (April 23, 2009). Michigan Law Review, Vol. 108, 2010; Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 145; American University, WCL Research Paper No. 09-36. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1392122

Contact Information

Nelson Tebbe
Brooklyn Law School ( email )
250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States
718.780.7960 (Phone)

Cornell Law School ( email )
Robert L. Tsai (Contact Author)
American University - Washington College of Law ( email )
4801 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20016
United States
202.274.4370 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.wcl.american.edu/faculty/rtsai/
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