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Thirteenth Amendment Optimism

33 Pages Posted: 25 May 2012 Last revised: 24 Jul 2012

Jamal Greene

Columbia University - Law School

Date Written: May 24, 2012


Thirteenth Amendment optimism is the view that the Thirteenth Amendment may be used to reach doctrinal outcomes neither specifically intended by the amendment's drafters nor obvious to contemporary audiences. In prominent legal scholarship, Thirteenth Amendment optimism has supported constitutional rights to abortion and health care and constitutional powers to prohibit hate speech and domestic violence, among other things. This article examines the practical utility of Thirteenth Amendment optimism in the face of dim prospects for adoption by courts. I argue that Thirteenth Amendment optimism is most valuable, both historically and today, as a means of motivating the political process to protect affirmative constitutional rights.

Keywords: Thirteenth Amendment, hate speech, abortion

Suggested Citation

Greene, Jamal, Thirteenth Amendment Optimism (May 24, 2012). Columbia Law Review, Forthcoming; Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 12-308. Available at SSRN:

Jamal Greene (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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