Scholars have shown that written constitutions may be informally amended in various ways, for instance by judicial interpretation, statute, or executive action. But scholars have yet to fully appreciate that written constitutions may also be informally amended by desuetude. Informal amendment by constitutional desuetude occurs when a constitutional provision loses its binding force upon political actors as a result of its conscious sustained nonuse and public repudiation by political actors. Though it is a species of informal amendment, constitutional desuetude possesses unique properties. Constitutional desuetude reflects the informal repeal of a constitutional provision as a result of the establishment of a new constitutional convention. Despite its obsolescence, the desuetudinal constitutional provision remains entrenched in the constitutional text. Consequently, although informal amendment generally leaves the constitutional text entrenched, unchanged and politically valid, this particular variation of informal amendment leaves the text entrenched and unchanged but renders it politically invalid. In this paper, I illustrate and theorize the phenomenon of informal amendment by constitutional desuetude with reference to the Canadian Constitution, I construct an analytical framework for identifying constitutional desuetude in other jurisdictions, I distinguish constitutional desuetude from other forms of obsolescence, and I also explore the costs of constitutional desuetude.
Comparative and Foreign Law
- Journal title
American Journal of Comparative Law
- Date submitted
8 September 2022