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The Unamendable Core of the United States Constitution

Comparative Perspectives on the Fundamental Freedom of Expression (Andras Koltay ed., 2015, Forthcoming)

Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 361

36 Pages Posted: 7 May 2015 Last revised: 2 Feb 2016

Richard Albert

Boston College - Law School; Yale University - Law School; Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho; University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law

Date Written: May 2, 2015

Abstract

Nothing in the United States Constitution is today formally unamendable. Yet it is worth asking whether the Constitution requires some form of implicit unamendability in order to survive according to its own terms. In this paper, I inquire whether anything in the Constitution -- whose constitutional text, history and interpretation are rooted in the concept of popular sovereignty -- should be regarded as informally unamendable. I conclude that, if the Constitution is to remain internally coherent, the informal unamendability of the First Amendment’s democratic rights may be a condition precedent to the Constitution’s promise of robust democracy. I nevertheless express some doubt about how political actors might reliably enforce an informally unamendable First Amendment. I suggest in closing that the optimal function of unamendability in modern constitutionalism is its expressive capacity, specifically that unamendability is more effective as a declaration of importance than as a referent for judicial enforceability.

Keywords: Comparative Constitutional Law, Comparative Constitutional Amendment, Constitutional Change, Informal Amendment, Constitutional Interpretation, Judicial Review, United States Constitution, Indian Constitution, Constitutional Design, Unamendability, First Amendment, Expression, Democracy

Suggested Citation

Albert, Richard, The Unamendable Core of the United States Constitution (May 2, 2015). Comparative Perspectives on the Fundamental Freedom of Expression (Andras Koltay ed., 2015, Forthcoming); Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 361. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2601646

Richard Albert (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02459-1163
United States
617.552.3930 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.richardalbert.com

Yale University - Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.yale.edu

Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho

Calle 12 # 1-17 este
Calle 12 0 83
Bogota D.C, Cundinamarca 3456
Colombia

HOME PAGE: http://190.7.110.123/irj/portal/anonymous/fac_derecho

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.utoronto.ca

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 46150
Israel

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.idc.ac.il/en/schools/law/pages/home.aspx

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