Constitutional Avoidance Doctrine: The Constitutional-Doubt Canon (Part 3 of 3) [March 29, 2022]   [open pdf - 719KB]

From the Document: "The Constitutional Avoidance Doctrine (see CRS [Congressional Research Service] Legal Sidebar LSB10719, 'The Modes of Constitutional Analysis: The Constitutional Avoidance Doctrine (Part 9)') is a set of rules the Supreme Court has developed to guide federal courts in disposing of cases that raise constitutional questions in order to minimize tensions that arise when an unelected federal judiciary sets aside laws enacted by Congress or state legislatures. Under the Constitutional Avoidance Doctrine, federal courts should interpret the Constitution only when it is a 'strict necessity' [hyperlink]. In a concurring opinion in 'Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority' [hyperlink], Justice Louis Brandeis identified seven rules comprising the Constitutional Avoidance Doctrine: (1) the Rule Against Feigned or Collusive Lawsuits; (2) Ripeness; (3) Judicial Minimalism; (4) the Last Resort Rule; (5) Standing and Mootness; (6) Constitutional Estoppel; and (7) the Constitutional-Doubt Canon. Rules (1), (2), (5), and (6) inform whether a court can hear a case (i.e., whether it is justiciable), while Rules (3), (4), and (7) inform how a court should address constitutional questions in cases before it. This Legal Sidebar Post on the Constitutional-Doubt Canon is the third of three that look at this latter set of rules. Because the Constitutional Avoidance Doctrine informs how the Court is likely to resolve disputes involving the constitutionality of laws, understanding the Constitutional Avoidance Doctrine may assist Congress in its legislative activities."

Report Number:
CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10722
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/
Media Type:
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