The Expressive Function of Constitutional Amendment Rules

57 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2013 Last revised: 6 Aug 2014

See all articles by Richard Albert

Richard Albert

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law; University of Texas at Austin - Department of Government; Yale University; University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; São Paulo Law School of Fundação Getulio Vargas FGV DIREITO SP; University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law; Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho; Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law; Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo; Airlangga University; Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai

Date Written: July 20, 2013

Abstract

The current scholarly focus on informal amendment has obscured the continuing relevance of formal amendment rules. In this Article, I return our attention to formal amendment in order to show that formal amendment rules – not formal amendments but formal amendment rules themselves – perform an underappreciated function: to express constitutional values. Drawing from national constitutions, in particular the Canadian, South African, German and United States Constitutions, I illustrate how constitutional designers may deploy formal amendment rules to create a formal constitutional hierarchy that reflects special political commitments. That formal amendment rules may express constitutional values is both a clarifying and complicating contribution to the study of formal amendment rules. It clarifies the study of formal amendment rules by showing that formal amendment rules may serve a function that scholars have yet to attribute to them. Yet it complicates the study of formal amendment rules by showing that the constitutional text alone cannot prove whether the constitutional values expressed in formal amendment rules represent authentic or inauthentic political commitments.

Keywords: Constitutional Amendment, Formal Amendment, Informal Amendment, Comparative Constitutional Law, Canadian Constitution, German Basic Law, South African Constitution, United States Constitution, Constitutional Design, Constitutional Values

Suggested Citation

Albert, Richard, The Expressive Function of Constitutional Amendment Rules (July 20, 2013). 59 McGill Law Journal 225 (2013), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2296380

Richard Albert (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

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