Against Constitutional Theory

Madison Lecture
April
1998
The Honorable Richard A. Posner

In this Madison Lecture, Chief Judge Posner advocates a pragmatic approach to constitutional decisionmaking, criticizing constitutional theorists who conceal their normative goals in vague and unworkable principles of interpretation. After discussing specific constitutional theories as well as the legal academy's increasing reliance  on theory in general Posner, demonstrates the ineffectuality of constitutional theory, using the Supreme Court's decisions in United States v. Virginia and Romer v. Evans as examples. He argues not that these cases were necessarily wrongly decided, but that the opinions lack the empirical support that is crucial to sound constitutional adjudication. Posner urges law professors to focus their scholarship on forms of inquiry that will actually prove useful to judges and concludes by asking that judges themselves recognize and acknowledge the limitations of their empirical knowledge.

This article appears in the April 1998 Issue: Volume 73, Number 1