Social facts, constitutional interpretation, and the rule of recognition

Abstract
This chapter is an essay in a volume that examines constitutional law in the United States through the lens of H.L.A. Hart's "rule of recognition" model of a legal system. My chapter focuses on a feature of constitutional practice that has been rarely examined: how jurists and scholars argue about interpretive methods. Although a vast body of scholarship provides arguments for or against various interpretive methods -- such as textualism, originalism, "living constitutionalism," structure-and-relationship reasoning, representation reinforcement, minimalism, and so forth -- very little scholarship shifts to the meta-level and asks: What are the considerations that jurists and scholars bring to bear in arguing that one or another interpretive method is legally favored? And can we "make sense" of this body of argument? Is there a model of legal discourse that both accurately describes how U.S. jurists and scholars actually argue about interpretive methods, and that vindicates this discourse (in the sense of seeing these actors as making valid arguments)? I find that Hart's rule-of-recognition model fails to describe or vindicate how U.S. jurists and scholars argue about interpretive methods. The problem, in a nutshell, is that Hart sees legal argument as asserting or presupposing the social fact of contemporary official acceptance of a rule of recognition. By contrast, jurists and scholars typically point to social facts other than contemporary official acceptance in arguing for the legal status of an interpretive method -- for example, the fact that the method is supported by Framers' intent, or by U.S. culture and tradition, or by precedent. Further, jurists and scholars very often argue that some interpretive method is legally favored even though the method is controversial. On Hart's model, such a claim is problematic -- because, on his model, the content of the rule of recognition is not controversial, but rather a matter of consensus among officials. The upshot may just be that Hart's model is a failure. However, another possibility is to adopt an "error theory" of U.S. constitutional discourse. It may perhaps be the case that U.S. jurists and scholars often make claims for the favorable legal status of some interpretive method that are inconsistent with the best understanding of the nature of law.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 10,999
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Similar books and articles
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-01-28

Total downloads

32 ( #54,037 of 1,101,116 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #115,950 of 1,101,116 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.