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02/27/2013

Randy Barnett: The Gravitational Force of Originalism
Michael Ramsey

Randy Barnett (Georgetown Law Center) has posted The Gravitational Force of Originalism (Fordham Law Review, forthcoming) on SSRN.  Here is abstract:

In part I of this essay, prepared for the Fordham conference on “The New Originalism and Constitutional Law,” I describe four aspects of the New Originalism: (1) The New Originalism is about identifying the original public meaning of the Constitution rather than the original framers intent; (2) The interpretive activity of identifying the original public meaning of the text is a purely descriptive empirical inquiry; (3) But there is also a normative tenet of the New Originalism that contends that the original public meaning of the text should be followed; (4) Distinguishing between the activities of interpretation and construction identifies the limit of the New Originalism, which is only a theory of interpretation. In part II, I then discusses how originalism can influence the outcome of such cases as D.C. v. Heller, McDonald v. Chicago, and NFIB v. Sebelius. I suggest that, so long as there are justices who accept the relevance of original meaning, originalism can exert a kind of “gravitational force” on legal doctrine even when, as in McDonald and ​NFIB​, the original meaning of the Constitution appears not to be the basis of a judicial decision.

Here is a link to the conference where the paper is being presented: The New Originalism and Constitutional Law.