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Constitutional Expectations

Richard Primus

University of Michigan Law School

June 1, 2010

U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 173
Michigan Law Review, Forthcoming

The public botching of the Inaugural Oath at the inauguration of President Barack Obama was generally understood as an illustration of the importance of textual exactitude in the culture of American constitutional law. Upon closer consideration, however, the episode actually reveals that something else - something we can call “constitutional expectations” - is often more important than the Constitution's text. This essay uses the inaugural oath affair to explain the phenomenon of constitutional expectations in constitutional law generally. It then uses the category of constitutional expectations to analyze a question now pending before Congress: whether the District of Columbia may elect a voting member of the House of Representatives. The conventional view is that the text of the Constitution prohibits such representation for the District, but an analysis based on constitutional expectations shows the limits of that textual obstacle.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 24

Keywords: Constitutional Law, Constitutional Interpretation

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Date posted: November 3, 2009 ; Last revised: June 10, 2010

Suggested Citation

Primus, Richard, Constitutional Expectations (June 1, 2010). U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 173; Michigan Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1498668 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1498668

Contact Information

Richard Primus (Contact Author)
University of Michigan Law School ( email )
625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734-647-5543 (Phone)
734-764-8309 (Fax)
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