Constitutional Remedies as Constitutional Law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Virtually all constitutional scholars agree, and the Supreme Court has uniformly held, that our entire system of constitutional democracy is premised in important part on the dictate of judicial review, i.e., the power of the judiciary to exercise the final say as to the meaning of the countermajoritarian Constitution’s provisions. Absent judicial review, the fundamental speed bumps to tyranny that the Framers so carefully inserted into our political structure would be rendered all but useless at best and a fraud on the electorate at worst. Yet puzzlingly, most of the very same scholars and judges assume that the very political branches that the Constitution is designed to restrain will fully control the remedies to be issued. Thus, all the political branches need to do to avoid constitutional control is deny the courts any power to enforce their decisions. Such a logically inconsistent dichotomy indirectly destroys the essence of the judicial review process that is so central to American constitutional democracy. Yet neither constitutional scholars nor the Supreme Court have recognized either the serious logical flaw or the potentially grave practical dangers in vesting in the very branches sought to be controlled by the Constitution the final power to determine the scope—indeed, the existence—of remedies to enforce constitutional dictates. This Article explains the inherent theoretical and practical link between constitutional review and constitutional remedies, demonstrating that full control of constitutional remedies belongs in the judiciary, not the political branches. It then explains how judicial inference of constitutional remedies in the face of textual silence on the issue can be justified by principled theories of textual interpretation, highlights the inadequacy of scholarly work in this area, and answers potential counterarguments. Finally, it applies this theory of constitutional remedies to the Supreme Court’s implied remedies jurisprudence.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1867-1923
JournalBoston College Law Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 29 2021


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