Grading Justice Kennedy: A Reply to Professor Carpenter

8 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2005


In my article, "Justice Kennedy's Libertarian Revolution: Lawrence v. Texas" (2002-2003 Cato Supreme Court Review 21 (2003)), I claim that Justice Kennedy's opinion in Lawrence is potentially revolutionary because it protects "liberty" rather than a right of privacy and shifts the burden of justification to the government without any showing that the liberty in question is fundamental, as required by well-established Due Process Clause doctrine. In his article, "Is Lawrence Libertarian?" (88 Minn. L. Rev. 1140 (2004)), Dale Carpenter calls into question my reading of Lawrence. In this brief reply, I respond to these criticism, by imagining that the words of Justice Kennedy's opinion were submitted to Professor Carpenter by one of his students as her answer to a final exam question based on the facts of Lawrence. I explain why he would have given the student a B precisely because the opinion deviates from the established doctrine that Professor Carpenter undoubtedly would have taught his class. Because it is a Supreme Court opinion and not a student exam answer, however, Justice Kennedy and the four justices who joined his opinion are free to ignore previous doctrine and adopt a potentially revolutionary approach, for which I give Justice Kennedy an A.

Keywords: Constitutional law, Jurisprudence, Legal Philosophy

JEL Classification: K1, K10, K4, K40

Suggested Citation

Barnett, Randy E., Grading Justice Kennedy: A Reply to Professor Carpenter. Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 89, p. 1500, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Randy E. Barnett (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9936 (Phone)


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