The Rosenkranz Amendment on Foreign Law:

My post on a proposal by Georgetown law professor Nick Rosenkranz for a constitutional amendment barring the use of foreign law in constitutional interpretation prompted extensive comment. The post was based on a presentation Prof. Rosenkranz made on a panel at the Federalist Society's annual lawyer's conference. Audio and video of the panel are now available here.

To recap the argument, Prof. Rosenkranz proposed a consitutional amendment stating that foreign law should not be used in constitutional interpretation. To be clear on what this proposal entails, it would not bar examination of historical texts, even those from abroad (such as pre-ratification English common law court decisions, Blackstone, etc.) that may help elucidate the meaning of constitutional provisions. It would, however, preclude judges from looking to contemporary sources of foreign law when seeking to discern the meaning of constitutional text. This would not be a new rule of constitutional interpretation, Prof. Rosenkranz argues, but a restatement of the original understanding. As he explains in this paper, "the Constitution itself ultimately refutes the notion that it should be interpreted by reference to the law of other states." Like the 9th and 11th Amendments, it would be a restatement of an interpretive rule that had been implicit in the document. However much I am suspicious of constitutional amendments, I think the underlying arguments are important and worth serious discussion.

I should also note that Prof. Rosenkranz was joined on the panel panel by his colleague Vicki Jackson, Yale's Akhil Amar, and the Honorable Frank Easterbrook. All gave interesting remarks, so the whole panel is worth watching (or podcasting).