October 30, 2017

CUA Law Professor Roger Hartley was the featured CUA Law Reunion Speaker on October 28, 2017. Hartley provided an examination of the political significance of the constitutional amendment process. In his recent book, How Failed Attempts to Amend the Constitution Mobilize Political Change, Hartley demonstrated that proposed amendments often mobilize support and influence laws even when they do not succeed in being added to constitutional law.

How Failed Attempts to Amend the Constitution Mobilize Political Change

By: Roger C. Hartley
Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press
Publication Year: 2017

Since the Constitution's ratification, members of Congress, following Article V, have proposed approximately twelve thousand amendments, and states have filed several hundred petitions with Congress for the convening of a constitutional convention. Only twenty-seven amendments have been approved in 225 years. Why do members of Congress continue to introduce amendments at a pace of almost two hundred a year?

This book is a demonstration of how social reformers and politicians have used the amendment process to achieve favorable political results even as their proposed amendments have failed to be adopted. For example, the ERA "failed" in the sense that it was never ratified, but the mobilization to ratify the ERA helped build the feminist movement (and also sparked a countermobilization). Similarly, the Supreme Court's ban on compulsory school prayer led to a barrage of proposed amendments to reverse the Court. They failed to achieve the requisite two-thirds support from Congress, but nevertheless had an impact on the political landscape. The definition of the relationship between Congress and the President in the conduct of foreign policy can also be traced directly to failed efforts to amend the Constitution during the Cold War.

Roger Hartley examines familiar examples like the ERA, balanced budget amendment proposals, and pro-life attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade, but also takes the reader on a three-century tour of lesser-known amendments. He explains how often the mere threat of calling a constitutional convention (at which anything could happen) effected political change.

Click here for more information.