From an Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment to an Unconstitutional Constitution? Lessons From Honduras
Global Constitutionalism, Forthcoming
24 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2018
Date Written: July 4, 2018
The unconstitutional constitutional amendment doctrine has emerged as a highly successful, albeit still controversial, export in comparative constitutional law. The doctrine has often been defended as protecting a delegation from the people to the political institutions that they created. Other work has noted the doctrine’s potential utility in guarding against abusive constitutionalism. In this piece, we consider how these justifications fare when expanded to encompass claims against the original constitution itself, rather than a later amendment to the text. That is, beyond the unconstitutional constitutional amendment doctrine, can or should there be a doctrine of an unconstitutional constitution? Our question is spurred by a puzzling 2015 case from Honduras where the Supreme Court held an unamendable one-term limit on presidential terms, as well as protective provisions punishing attempts to alter that limit, to be unconstitutional. What is particularly striking about the case is that these provisions were not later amendments to the constitution, but rather parts of the original 1982 constitution itself. Thus, this article examines the possibility of ‘an unconstitutional constitution’.
Keywords: unconstitutional constitutional amendments, abusive constitutionalism, judicial review of constitutional norms, term limits, Honduras
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