The Formalist Resistance to Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments
27 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2018
Date Written: June 13, 2018
Many courts around the world have either asserted or exercised the power to invalidate a constitutional amendment. But we should not take the increasing prevalence of the doctrine of unconstitutional constitutional amendment as evidence of its appropriateness for all constitutional states. It is imperative that constitutional actors know that there is another answer to the question whether an amendment can be unconstitutional. We have three purposes in this Article, and we seek to fulfill each of them with reference to three jurisdictions in particular—France, Georgia and Turkey—whose constitutions and attendant constitutional practices have expressly rejected the doctrine in a way that reflects what we describe as their shared formalist resistance to the doctrine of unconstitutional constitutional amendment. We seek first to demonstrate that the doctrine of unconstitutional constitutional amendment has not yet matured into a global norm of constitutionalism. We seek also to explain how a jurisdiction that expressly rejects the idea of an unconstitutional constitutional amendment operates in the face an amendment that would otherwise be invalidated as unconstitutional in a jurisdiction that has adopted the doctrine. We finally seek to evaluate what is gained and lost in a constitutional state by rejecting the doctrine of unconstitutional constitutional amendment. We find that there are both democracy-enhancing and democracy-weakening features that follow from the choice to reject the doctrine outright. Our larger purpose is inherent in the project itself: to diversify our thinking about what risks becoming seen as a necessary feature of constitutionalism but that design and practice show plainly is not.
Keywords: Constitutional Amendment, Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment, French Constitution, Georgian Constitution, Turkish Constitution, Formalism, Positivism, Formal Amendment, Informal Amendment, Constitutional Change, Conseil Constitutionnel
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