New Co-Authored Book by USD Law Professor Michael Rappaport Defends Originalism

Cambridge, Mass. (October 7, 2013) – Harvard University Press today released Originalism and the Good Constitution, the latest book from University of San Diego (USD) School of Law Professor Michael Rappaport and Northwestern University School of Law Professor John McGinnis.

Originalism holds that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted according to its meaning at the time it was enacted. In their innovative defense of originalism, Michael Rappaport and John McGinnis maintain that the text of the Constitution should be adhered to by the Supreme Court because it was enacted by supermajorities—both its original enactment under Article VII and subsequent Amendments under Article V. A text approved by supermajorities has special value in a democracy because it has unusually wide support and thus tends to maximize the welfare of the greatest number.

The authors recognize and respond to many possible objections. Does originalism perpetuate the dead hand of the past? How can following the original meaning be justified, given that African Americans and women were excluded from the enactment of the Constitution in 1787 and many of its subsequent Amendments? What is originalism's place in interpretation of the Constitution, when after two hundred years there is so much non-originalist precedent?

A fascinating counterfactual they pose is this: had the Supreme Court not interpreted the Constitution so freely, perhaps the nation would have resorted to the Article V amendment process more often and with greater effect. Their book will be an important contribution to the literature on originalism, which is now the most prominent theory of constitutional interpretation.

About Michael Rappaport

Michael Rappaport is the Hugh and Hazel Darling Foundation Professor of Law and the director of the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism at the University of San Diego School of Law, where he teaches and writes in the areas of administrative law, constitutional law, constitutional history and legislation. His principal areas of research are originalism, separation of powers, federalism, and supermajority rules.

About the University of San Diego School of Law

Recognized for the excellence of its faculty, curriculum and clinical programs, the University of San Diego (USD) School of Law enrolls approximately 900 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world. The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest law, and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 81 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates. The law school’s faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 23rd worldwide in all-time faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, nonprofit, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.

Originalism and the Good Constitution

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