On “Scalia’s Jurisdiction”

Over at Jotwell I have a post discussing Fred Smith’s forthcoming paper “Undemocratic Restraint.”

Here’s part of the abstract from Fred’s paper:

This Article argues that it is unlikely that recategorizing prudential rules [of judicial power] will do much to facilitate representative democracy. Worse, constitutionalizing prudential limits reduces dialogue among the branches, and exacerbates some of the most troubling aspects of countermajoritarian judicial supremacy. Further, constitutionalizing judicial prudence has and will make it more difficult for Congress to expand access to American courts for violations of federal rights and norms. When measured against newly constitutionalized limits on judicial power, American democracy is better served by self-imposed judicial restraint, guided by transparency and principle.

Here are some excerpts from my post, which is entitled “Scalia’s Jurisdiction”:

[T]he Court is often called on to construe the amorphous jurisdictional provisions of the Constitution, as well as federal statutes, and those efforts frequently require new, difficult judgments. So discretion has a way of working its way into even the most staunchly formalist efforts to ascertain federal jurisdiction, as most famously argued in a seminal paper by David Shapiro over thirty years ago.

Now Fred O. Smith, Jr., has given us the latest take on federal courts’ jurisdictional discretion. Smith’s timing is doubly apt, because his paper comes on the heels of two important events: first, Justice Antonin Scalia’s unanimous majority opinion in Lexmark v. Static Control Components, which tried to bring order to this field; and second, Scalia’s recent death, which leaves the field feeling both vacant and full of possibility.

In time, Smith’s paper might come to mark a doctrinal turning point. Without Scalia, the Court may no longer rely on the prudential/constitutional distinction. Instead, the Court might come to acknowledge that what Scalia called constitutional rules were really the just the distinctive brand of prudential, judge-made rules that Scalia and like-minded colleagues preferred. Jurisdictional debates would then shift in terminology, and perhaps in substance as well. Rather than jousting over labels, the justices would debate how best to develop inevitably prudential doctrines from constitutional and statutory texts.

It is a credit to Smith’s article that it could survive that intellectual and doctrinal shift. While mostly working from within Scalia’s jurisdictional framework, Smith’s critique also contains valuable insights that could outlast it.

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