Annual Princeton ConLaw Schmooze

Invisible Constitutions

Fri, 12/03/2010 to Sat, 12/04/2010
by invitation only
Event Category: 
By Invitation Only

This workshop is the Princeton version of the Constitutional Law "Schmooze." The "Schmooze" has brought together major scholars in both law schools and political science departments for decades now. The Fourth Annual Princeton Schmooze carries on the tradition of bringing legal and political experts together to discuss a topic of general and pervasive importance in the field.

The workshop will be held on Friday-Saturday 3-4 December 2010, starting at noon on Friday and continuing through dinner on Saturday.

Papers and Participants (password required)

Schedule (password required)

Meeting Locations Map

Our theme this year is "Invisible Constitutions."   Every constitutional order has some parts that are written down, easily referenced and generally followed.   But every constitutional order also has elements that are unwritten and held in place by constitutional expectations and habits.  The British call these practices and understandings "constitutional conventions" – elements that have been part of the constitutional order for so long that they are taken for granted as part of the constitutional wallpaper, so to speak. In fact, I thought about calling the schmooze "Constitutional Wallpaper" in honor of Jack Balkin's and Sandy Levinson's famous formulation of constitutional ideas as being either on the wall or off the wall.  In the case of constitutional wallpaper, these ideas are SO much on the wall that it is hard to imagine displacing them without defacing the wall. 

What topics are included under this heading?  The reach is potentially vast.   For example:   a) judicial review in the US, b) frameworks for constitutional interpretation (rational basis, strict scrutiny, clear and present danger etc.), c) redistricting only after a new census, d) maintaining the rules of the Senate as if it is a continuing body.   In constitutional systems outside the US, the number of practices is even vaster:  a) the Queen's automatic assent to legislation in the UK, b) the use of human dignity as a principle that cannot be balanced against others in Germany, c) the relaxation of standing rules that permits public interest litigation in India, d) the requirement that any legal provision affecting the realization of rights has be passed in a statute rather than in administrative regulation in Hungary – and much more.