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date: 03 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines why and how constitutional changes occur. It discusses three common methods of constitutional reform involving institutional practices within the elected branches, sweeping acts of Congress, or transformative Supreme Court doctrine, to better understand why the only method of change specified in the U.S. Constitution—amendment—is so neglected and whether that is a problem. It also considers four ideas that help explain the rationale for substantial constitutional reform at the federal level: “error correction” to bring back a prior status quo, technological innovations that require courts to review the application of established legal principles, the abandonment or development of a widely held cultural assumption that leads to the expansion or contraction of a legal principle, and a response to a cataclysmic event that exposes a latent defect in the constitutional design. Finally, the chapter explores the merits of constitutional amendments.

Keywords: constitutional changes, constitutional reform, Congress, Supreme Court, Constitution, error correction, technological innovations, legal principles, constitutional design, constitutional amendments

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