How Unwritten Constitutional Norms Change Written Constitutions

38 Dublin University Law Journal 387 (2015)

Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 364

31 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2015 Last revised: 4 Jan 2022

See all articles by Richard Albert

Richard Albert

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

Date Written: July 9, 2015

Abstract

Written constitutions are susceptible to informal changes that do not manifest themselves in alterations to the text, for instance as a result of judicial interpretation, legislative enactment or executive action. This phenomenon is well developed in the scholarly literature on constitutional change and informal constitutional amendment. But what remains understudied and undertheorized in Canada and the United States is how written constitutions change informally as a result of the development of an unwritten constitutional norm, otherwise known as a constitutional convention. In this Article, I hypothesize with reference to the Canadian and United States Constitutions that there exist two major categories of informal constitutional change by constitutional convention: incorporation and repudiation. I suggest also that incorporation and repudiation may each occur in two ways: incorporation may occur by filling an existing void in the constitutional text or by refining one of its existing provisions, and repudiation may result from creating a void in the constitutional text or from substituting one of its existing provisions. I then evaluate whether these four forms informal constitutional change by constitutional convention entail costs to the rule of law where constitutional meaning is rooted in the present public meaning of the constitutional text. My larger purpose in this Article is to invite a dialogue with comparative public law scholars on how unwritten constitutional norms change written constitutions so that we may ultimately better understand the forms and implications of unwritten constitutional change.

Keywords: Constitutional Change, Constitutional Convention, Unwritten Constitutional Norms, Constitutional Amendment, Formal Amendment, Informal Amendment, Constitutional Interpretation, Constitution of Canada, United States Constitution, Ivor Jennings, Rule of Law, Democracy

Suggested Citation

Albert, Richard, How Unwritten Constitutional Norms Change Written Constitutions (July 9, 2015). 38 Dublin University Law Journal 387 (2015), Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 364, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2628460

Richard Albert (Contact Author)

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

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States
512.213.1113 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.utexas.edu/faculty/richard-albert

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Government ( email )

College of Liberal Arts
1 University Station A1800
Austin, TX 78712
United States

Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo ( email )

Facultad de Derecho
Av. Samborondón 5
Samborondón, 092301
Ecuador

HOME PAGE: http://uees.edu.ec/postgrado/postgrado-derecho

Université Paris II - Panthéon-Assas ( email )

12 place du Pantheon
Paris cedex 06, 75231
France

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://www.uexternado.edu.co/derecho

São Paulo Law School of Fundação Getulio Vargas FGV DIREITO SP

R. Rocha, 233, Bela Vista
São Paulo, 01330-000
Brazil

HOME PAGE: http://direitosp.fgv.br

Reichman University - Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Harry Radziner School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 46150
Israel

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

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

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Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada

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University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law ( email )

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Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://commonlaw.uottawa.ca

Airlangga University

Dharmawangsa Dalam Selatan
Surabaya, East Java 60286
Indonesia

HOME PAGE: http://www.unair.ac.id

Yale University

493 College St
New Haven, CT CT 06520
United States

Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai ( email )

2nd Floor, CETTM MTNL Building, Technology Street
Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai 400076
Maharashtra
India

HOME PAGE: http://mnlumumbai.edu.in/vaf.php

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