Marbury in the Vanishing Cabinet: Evaluating Originalism in the Light of Judicial Review's Uncertain Origins
45 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 30, 2018
Although originalism has occasioned substantial rethinking of many facets of our constitutional law, the doctrine of judicial review articulated in Marbury v. Madison has gone largely unquestioned. This article explores the uncertain place of judicial review in the original Constitution, and systematically lays out the consequences of that uncertainty for today's originalism.
The article unfolds the problems originalists face if judicial review was not part of the original constitutional framework. While many scholars in both the originalist and nonoriginalist camps believe that judicial review's place in the original Constitution is well established, this paper scrutinizes the leading scholarship on the history of judicial review and shows that, contrary to popular belief, judicial review's historical bona fides are fundamentally uncertain. Because judicial review cannot be justified on originalist grounds, originalists need to seek other reasons for engaging in it, and must reconcile those reasons with the basic tenets of originalism. To an extent, they have already done this, but significant gaps remain. The article considers what reasons originalists could invoke, and concludes that it will be difficult, absent historical legitimation for the practice of judicial review, for originalists to make an argument for judicial review that favors originalism over competing interpretive theories.
Keywords: originalism, constitutional interpretation, judicial review, marbury v. madison
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