Constitutional Analogies in the International Legal System

45 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2003

See all articles by Laurence R. Helfer

Laurence R. Helfer

Duke University School of Law; University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts


This Article explores issues at the frontier of international law and constitutional law. It considers five key structural and systemic challenges that the international legal system now faces: (1) decentralization and disaggregation; (2) normative and institutional hierarchies; (3) compliance and enforcement; (4) exit and escape; and (5) democracy and legitimacy. Each of these issues raises questions of governance, institutional design, and allocation of authority paralleling the questions that domestic legal systems have answered in constitutional terms.

For each of these issues, I survey the international legal landscape and consider the salience of potential analogies to domestic constitutions, drawing upon and extending the writings of international legal scholars and international relations theorists. I also offer some preliminary thoughts about why some treaties and institutions, but not others, more readily lend themselves to analysis in constitutional terms. And I distinguish those legal and political issues that may generate useful insights for scholars studying the growing intersections of international and constitutional law from other areas that may be more resistant to constitutional analogies.

Suggested Citation

Helfer, Laurence R., Constitutional Analogies in the International Legal System. Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Vol. 37, p. 193, 2003; Princeton Law and Public Affairs Working Paper No. 03-12; Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2003-16. Available at SSRN: or

Laurence R. Helfer (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Dr.
Box 90360
Durham, NC 27708
United States
+1-919-613-8573 (Phone)


University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts ( email )

University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law
Karen Blixens Plads 16
Copenhagen S, DK-2300


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