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Foreign Law as Legislative Fact in Constitutional Cases

43 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2011  

A. Christopher Bryant

University of Cincinnati - College of Law

Date Written: March 15, 2011


Do we really need another law review article about foreign law in constitutional interpretation? In fact we do. In the vast literature on the subject, a fundamental point has received scant attention. In the recent rulings that have stoked the present controversy, the Supreme Court has employed foreign law not as law, but rather merely as evidence of a legislative fact made relevant by domestic constitutional law. Commentators, however, have largely directed their attention to the merits of a genuine constitutional comparativism, in which foreign law serves as a model for the creation of domestic constitutional doctrine. Many commentators have advocated just such an approach, and at least one sitting Justice has joined in this chorus in both extrajudicial commentary and in a dissenting opinion. But to date, the Court has yet to take this much-mooted step, perhaps due to an awareness of the complex theoretical challenges such an approach would raise. A few opponents to the Court’s actual practice have forcefully observed that the Court’s use of foreign law has lacked the rigor and impartiality that would be necessary to make it credible. What even these scholars have not done, and what this essay ventures, is to consider these claims within the broader context of the Court’s use, and misuse, of all manner of evidence employed in connection with questions of legislative fact in constitutional adjudication.

Keywords: constitution, foreign law, legislative fact, constitutional doctrine, constitutional adjudication

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Bryant, A. Christopher, Foreign Law as Legislative Fact in Constitutional Cases (March 15, 2011). University of Cincinnati Public Law Research Paper No. 11-04. Available at SSRN: or

A. Christopher Bryant (Contact Author)

University of Cincinnati - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210040
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0040
United States
513-556-6805 (Phone)
513-556-1236 (Fax)

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