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Conference Proceeding


The Paradigm-Case Method, 115 YALE LAW JOURNAL 1977 (2006)


There are three fundamental topics in constitutional law: doctrine, interpretation, and legitimacy. Doctrine concerns the law as it is or should be in any particular constitutional field. Interpretation concerns the methods judges do or should deploy in deciding what the Constitution means. Legitimacy concerns the claims of authority that constitutional law—a body of law rendered by unelected judges supposedly on the basis of a two-hundred-year-old text—can make to justify its legal supremacy in a society that calls itself self-governing.

Most constitutional scholars devote their careers to one of these topics. Some make contributions to two of them. Remarkably, Akhil Amar has changed the way we think about all three—and he has done so again in America's Constitution: A Biography. Popular sovereignty is Amar's paradigm of political legitimacy; a mixture of intratextualism and originalism are his interpretive lodestars. The intriguing insights he delivers for constitutional doctrine can be found on page after page of his book.

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