Minimalism at War
Cass R. Sunstein
Harvard Law School
Supreme Court Review, Forthcoming
When national security conflicts with individual liberty, reviewing courts might adopt one of three general orientations: National Security Maximalism, Liberty Maximalism, and minimalism. National Security Maximalism calls for a great deal of deference to the President, above all because of his authority as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Liberty Maximalism asks courts to assume the same liberty-protecting posture in times of war as in times of peace. Minimalism asks courts to follow three precepts: the President needs clear congressional authorization for intruding on interests having a strong claim to constitutional protection; fair hearings should generally be provided to those who have been deprived of their freedom; and courts should discipline their own authority through narrow, incompletely theorized rulings. Of the three positions, Liberty Maximalism is the easiest to dismiss; courts will not and should not adopt it. National Security Maximalism is far more plausible, but it is in grave tension with the constitutional structure, and it is built on excessive optimism about the incentives of the President. The most appealing approach is minimalism, which does remarkably well in capturing prominent decisions of the Supreme Court in World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and the war on terrorism.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 69
Keywords: individual liberty, national security, Presidential authority, constitution, terrorism
Date posted: December 16, 2004
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