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Bush v. Gore through the Lens of Constitutional History

Michael J. Klarman
California Law Review
Vol. 89, No. 6 (Dec., 2001), pp. 1721-1765
DOI: 10.2307/3481248
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3481248
Page Count: 45
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Bush v. Gore through the Lens of Constitutional History
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Abstract

This Article considers the long-term implications of Bush v. Gore for the Court's institutional standing and legitimacy. First, the Article argues that if the Court's legitimacy turns on the legal soundness of its reasoning, the Court is in a lot of trouble, since few neutral and detached lawyers will be convinced that the result in Bush v. Gore was a product of anything but the conservative Justices' partisan preference for George W. Bush. Second, the Article considers the alternative premise that history's verdict on a Supreme Court ruling depends more on whether public opinion ultimately supports the outcome than on the quality of the legal reasoning or the craftsmanship of the Court's opinion. The Article canvasses some of the landmark decisions in American constitutional history-Dred Scott v. Sandford, Brown v. Board of Education, Furman v. Georgia, Roe v. Wade, and others-with the aim of deriving a list of factors that predict how particular rulings will affect the Court's reputation. Then, applying these factors, the Article predicts that the long-term consequences of Bush v. Gore for the Court's reputation are likely to be relatively minimal, mainly because half the country approves of the result and because the underlying issue will rapidly become obsolete.

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