The Lawfare Podcast: Jonathan Gould on Codifying Constitutional Norms

Jen Patja Howell, Alan Z. Rozenshtein, Jonathan Gould
Tuesday, March 23, 2021, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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Our constitutional system involves the written document, plus two and a half centuries of judicial decisions interpreting it. But these two things only scratch the surface. It also involves our constitutional norms, the unwritten rules that govern how actors in our political system behave. For decades, commentators have observed the steady erosion of many of these norms, and in the four years of the Trump administration, the trickle of norm violations became a torrent. As a response, many in academia, the media and politics have called for Congress to pass legislation that would codify what had previously been unwritten norms of behavior, from requiring that presidential candidates disclose their tax returns to limiting the president's pardon power.

In a forthcoming article in the Georgetown Law Journal, Jonathan Gould, assistant professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, analyzes many of these proposals and points out the potential unintended consequences of trying to commit unwritten norms to legislative language. Alan Rozenshtein spoke with Jonathan about the importance and erosion of constitutional norms, especially within the executive branch, and how best to repair them.

Jen Patja Howell is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Alan Z. Rozenshtein is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, a senior editor at Lawfare, and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously, he served as an Attorney Advisor with the Office of Law and Policy in the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland.
Jonathan Gould is an Assistant Professor at Berkeley Law School. His research focuses on the relationship between politics and law, with special attention to Congress and the legislative process.

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