Structural Rights and Incorporation
39 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2019
Date Written: February 20, 2019
Under the selective incorporation doctrine, provisions in the Bill of Rights are applied against the states if they are fundamental to the American scheme of ordered liberty or deeply rooted in this nation’s history. By focusing solely on the importance of rights, this doctrine fails to account for the effect of incorporating a right on the states. This Article challenges this approach. It identifies a category of rights whose incorporation most deeply intrudes on state sovereignty. These rights do not simply create individual entitlements; they also have structural features by dictating which government institutions may exercise which government powers. These “structural rights” comprise the Fifth Amendment right to a grand jury, the Sixth Amendment right to a criminal jury, and the Seventh Amendment right to a civil jury. The Article argues that these rights should not be incorporated because the prerogative to allocate government powers is one of the core powers of state sovereignty, and the Fourteenth Amendment does not purport to strip the states of that power. In addition to protecting the state power to arrange government, adopting a theory against incorporating structural rights would explain the Court’s refusal to incorporate the grand jury and civil jury rights, as well as doctrinal anomalies surrounding incorporation of the criminal jury right.
Adopting the theory against incorporating structural rights would have several implications. The most significant is that it would result in the deincorporation of the Sixth Amendment right to a criminal jury. The consequence of this deincorporation is not only that the Constitution would not oblige states to provide juries in criminal cases but also that the doctrine announced in Apprendi v. New Jersey, which prohibits sentencing schemes that allowed judges to make factual findings altering the range of punishment, would no longer apply against the states.
Keywords: federalism, constitutional law, incorporation, fourteenth amendment
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