Minimalism at War

69 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2004  

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Abstract

When national security conflicts with individual liberty, reviewing courts might adopt one of three general orientations: National Security Maximalism, Liberty Maximalism, and minimalism. National Security Maximalism calls for a great deal of deference to the President, above all because of his authority as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Liberty Maximalism asks courts to assume the same liberty-protecting posture in times of war as in times of peace. Minimalism asks courts to follow three precepts: the President needs clear congressional authorization for intruding on interests having a strong claim to constitutional protection; fair hearings should generally be provided to those who have been deprived of their freedom; and courts should discipline their own authority through narrow, incompletely theorized rulings. Of the three positions, Liberty Maximalism is the easiest to dismiss; courts will not and should not adopt it. National Security Maximalism is far more plausible, but it is in grave tension with the constitutional structure, and it is built on excessive optimism about the incentives of the President. The most appealing approach is minimalism, which does remarkably well in capturing prominent decisions of the Supreme Court in World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and the war on terrorism.

Keywords: individual liberty, national security, Presidential authority, constitution, terrorism

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., Minimalism at War. Supreme Court Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=629285

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts Ave
Areeda Hall 225
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2291 (Phone)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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