Zombie Laws

43 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2021 Last revised: 21 Jan 2022

See all articles by Howard Wasserman

Howard Wasserman

Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law

Date Written: January 14, 2022


A judicial declaration of constitutional invalidity does not erase a challenged law. Such a law is “dead” in that enforcement efforts will not succeed in court, where judicial precedent binds and dictates the outcome in future litigation. But such a law is “alive” in that it remains on the books and may be enforced by a departmentalist executive acting on an independent constitutional judgment. Judge Gregg Costa has labeled these statutory remainders “zombie laws.”

This Article describes several principles that define constitutional litigation, how those principles produce zombie laws, and the scope and nature of zombie laws. It then describes how Congress or state legislatures can eliminate or enable future enforcement of zombie laws by repealing or retaining them, depending on their views of judicial precedent and what they want to see happen with their laws in the future.

Keywords: Federal Courts, Constitutional Rights, Remedies, Injunctions, Litigation, Civil Rights

Suggested Citation

Wasserman, Howard, Zombie Laws (January 14, 2022). 25 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 1047 (2022), Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 21-02, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3778122 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3778122

Howard Wasserman (Contact Author)

Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law ( email )

University Park, DB 2065
Miami, FL 33199
United States
305-348-7482 (Phone)

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