29 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2017

See all articles by Cass R. Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: October 17, 2017


Originalism might be defended on two very different grounds. The first is that it is in some sense mandatory – for example, that it follows from the very idea of interpretation, from having a written Constitution, or from the only legitimate justifications for judicial review. The second is that originalism is best on broadly consequentialist grounds. While the first kind of defense is not convincing, the second cannot be ruled off-limits. In an imaginable world, it is right; in our world, it is usually not. But in the context of impeachment, originalism is indeed best, because there are no helpful precedents or traditions with which to work, and because the original meaning is (at least) pretty good on the merits. These points are brought to bear on recent defenses of originalism; on conflicts between precedents and the original meaning; on conflicts between traditions and original meaning; and on nonoriginalist approaches, used shortly after ratification.

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., Originalism (October 17, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3055093 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3055093

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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