Basic Research

Periodically I find it useful to do research that is unconnected to a particular project.  Just reading up on something new is fun and often leads to fresh ideas.  So my plan for the next few months is to read the constitution of every state in the Union and the constitutions of every democratic country where I can find an English translation.  When I come across an interesting tidbit, I will let you know.

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8 Responses

  1. r2d2 says:

    I’m from Pennsylvania. I’ve always like this part of the PA constitution.

    “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

  2. Amanda says:

    You could spend the next few months just on the constitution of my home state (Alabama). Googling the various criticisms of the Alabama Constitution should be fun, though.

  3. A.J. Sutter says:

    I’ve recently been getting my toes wet in a similar (and more sampled) kind of project regarding national constitutions. Unfortunately, reading a constitution and understanding how it’s implemented in practice are very different things. Everyone knows that what you see isn’t always what you get, esp. when it comes to human rights. In Japan, the Supreme Court extends this principle to even more arcane areas, e.g. holding that one person, one vote (Arts. 14(1) and 43(2)) isn’t violated by, say, one person, 5.85 votes. Assuming it’s not just sort of life-list thing like birders do, then unless you quickly develop a focus on particular types of provision, or on rhetorical sorts of flourishes (e.g., how often do constitutions begin with “We, the people”? How often do constitutions mention subsoil? — Mongolia’s does both), you may find such an open-ended project gets pretty frustrating pretty quickly.

  4. harwellwells says:

    I wrote my student note on anti-dueling laws in the Old South, and was charmed to learn that at least one state constitution–Kentucky’s–still requires members of the General Assembly to affirm they have not dueled or served as seconds. As of a few years ago, applicants for the Kentucky bar were also required to pledge this.

  5. Joe says:

    Before you start, I’d recommend reading Richard Briffault’s “Disfavored Constitution” (34 Rutgers LJ 907). It will help put a lot of the tedious fiscal limitations that you’re going to come across in context.

  6. Mary Whisner says:

    To find the national constitutions (and commentary about them), you might start with this guide:

    In print, stroll to:
    Constitutions of the countries of the world : a series of updated texts, constitutional chronologies and annotated bibliographies
    STACKS– K3157.A2 B536 1971

    And for state constitutions,
    Constitutions of the United States, national and State
    Columbia University. Legislative Drafting Research Fund.
    STACKS– KF4530 .C653 1974 — Note:Cancelled with 2000-4

  7. Gerard Magliocca says:

    Thanks for all of the helpful suggestions!

  8. Rodney Guthman says:

    Why not start with the Constitution of The Netherlands?

    Here it is, in English: