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Lawrence Solum & Randy Barnett: Originalism after Dobbs, Bruen, and Kennedy (Revised Version)
Michael Ramsey

Lawrence B. Solum (University of Virginia School of Law) and Randy E. Barnett (Georgetown University Law Center) have posted a revised version of their article Originalism after Dobbs, Bruen, and Kennedy: The Role of History and Tradition (Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 118, No. 1, 2023) (56 pages) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract: 

In three recent cases, the constitutional concepts of history and tradition have played important roles in the reasoning of the Supreme Court. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization relied on history and tradition to overrule Roe v. Wade. New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen articulated a history and tradition test for the validity of laws regulating the right to bear arms recognized by the Second Amendment. Kennedy v. Bremerton School District looked to history and tradition in formulating the test for the consistency of state action with the Establishment Clause.

These cases raise important questions about the Court’s approach to constitutional interpretation and construction. Do Dobbs, Bruen, and Kennedy represent a new theory of constitutional interpretation and construction based on history and tradition? In the alternative, should the references to history and tradition in these opinions be understood through the lens of constitutional pluralism as modalities of constitutional argument? Finally, can the use of history and tradition in Dobbs, Bruen, and Kennedy be reconciled with the Supreme Court’s embrace of originalism?

Part One of this article elucidates the constitutional concepts of history and tradition. Part Two lays out four distinct roles that history and tradition can play: (1) as evidence of original meaning and purpose, (2) as modalities of constitutional argument within a constitutional pluralism framework, (3) as a novel constitutional theory, which we call “historical traditionalism,” and (4) as implementing doctrines. Part Three investigates the roles of history and tradition in Dobbs, Bruen, and Kennedy. In Part Four articulates a comprehensive strategy for the incorporation of history and tradition in constitutional jurisprudence.

This is the third version of the paper. It replaces a prior version and contains substantial revisions, especially with respect to the discussion of Bruen.

(Via Legal Theory Blog.)

The discussion of Bruen in particular is usefully read along with this article by Joseph Blocher & Eric Ruben: Originalism-by-Analogy and Second Amendment Adjudication.