Linking the Questions: Judicial Supremacy as a Matter of Constitutional Interpretation
Tabatha Abu El-Haj
Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law
January 11, 2012
Washington University Law Review, Vol. 89, 2012
Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law Research Paper No. 2012-A-01
This Article explains that what has been missing from the debate between advocates of popular constitutionalism and defenders of judicial supremacy is any account of the practice of constitutional interpretation. Without a clear sense of what constitutional interpretation involves, we cannot assess the prevailing assumption that the Supreme Court is uniquely positioned to interpret the Constitution or explore an expertise-based justification for its claim to finality. The Article, therefore, revisits the debate about judicial supremacy by starting, not with history or politics, but with constitutional interpretation itself.
Having explored the practice of constitutional interpretation, it concludes that the Supreme Court can claim expertise with respect to determining constitutional meaning, but that its expertise has limits. The Article proceeds to explore whether and how this insight might be translated into limits to judicial supremacy. Toward that end, it develops a framework for assessing when the work of constitutional interpretation should be shared between the Supreme Court, the other branches of government, and the public itself. Finally, it uses the Court’s doctrine with respect to race-conscious legislative districting to illustrate how the proposed framework might work.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 66
Keywords: Judicial supremacy, Popular Constitutionalism, Voting Rights, Voting Rights Act, Constitutional Interpretation, Federalism, Redistricting
Date posted: January 12, 2012 ; Last revised: April 14, 2012