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Public Law & Legal Theory


This brief essay, a reply to a forthcoming essay by Radicals in Robes by Saikrishna Prakash in the Columbia Law Review, makes two points. The first is that the abstract idea of interpretation cannot support originalism or indeed any judgment about the competing (reasonable) approaches to the Constitution. Any such judgment must be defended on pragmatic grounds, which means that it must be attentive to consequences. The second point is that the consequentialist judgments that support minimalism also suggest that there are times and places in which minimalism is rightly abandoned. For example, broad rulings may well be justified when predictability calls for it; and the Supreme Court was right to refuse minimalism in the late 1930s. While minimalism is generally the proper approach to “frontiers” issue in constitutional law, its own pragmatic foundations suggest that constitutional law should not be insistently or dogmatically minimalist.



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