Proportionality Principles in American Law: Controlling Excessive Government Actions

Overview

From the ancient origins of Just War doctrine to utilitarian and retributive theories of punishment, concepts of proportionality have long been an instrumental part of the rule of law and an essential check on government power. These concepts all embody the fundamental value that government and private actions should not be demonstrably excessive relative to their moral and practical justifications. In the American legal system, despite frequent though unacknowledged use of proportionality principles, there is no...

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Overview

From the ancient origins of Just War doctrine to utilitarian and retributive theories of punishment, concepts of proportionality have long been an instrumental part of the rule of law and an essential check on government power. These concepts all embody the fundamental value that government and private actions should not be demonstrably excessive relative to their moral and practical justifications. In the American legal system, despite frequent though unacknowledged use of proportionality principles, there is no general theory of what permits courts to invalidate intrusive measures.

In Proportionality Principles in American Law, two renowned legal scholars seek to advance such a theory. They argue that standards of review should be more clearly and precisely defined, and that in most circumstances every intrusive government measure which limits or threatens individual rights should undergo some degree of proportionality review. Across a wide range of legal contexts, E. Thomas Sullivan and Richard S. Frase identify three basic ways that government measures and private remedies have been found to be disproportionate: relative to fault; relative to alternative means of achieving the same practical purposes; and relative to the likely practical benefits of the measure or remedy. Using this structure, the book examines the origins and contemporary uses of proportionality principles in public law, civil liberties, and the criminal justice system, emphasizing the utility of proportionality principles to guide judicial review of excessive government measures.

By constructing a new framework and a general theory for constitutional judicial review, Proportionality Principles in American Law will help courts more consistently and effectively apply proportionality principles to better serve their vital roles as guardians of individual rights and liberties.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It is heresy in some circles to suggest that the Supreme Court could learn anything useful from the world outside our borders. This book argues that the European doctrine of proportionality not only helps us understand our existing constitutional rules more clearly but also leads to some significant improvements. Readers will find much to learn about our own constitutional system as well as European law. As the authors show, we need to take seriously the idea of proportionality between the ends and means of government action."—Daniel Farber, Sho Sato Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley

"In this important study in constitutional and public law, Professors Sullivan and Frase take on a familiar concept-proportionality—that is widely revered as a benchmark for mediating between conflicting values and interests. They show, through their comparative work and analysis of American law, how the differing meanings of proportionality indicate different processes of assessment. We should be grateful to the authors for so impressively drawing out these varying meanings and for developing a set of principles of proportionality that safeguard key values in the process of judicial review."—Andrew Ashworth, Vinerian Professor of English Law, All Souls College, Oxford University

"An important corrective for the practice of judicial review in American courts, Proportionality Principles in American Law argues that every intrusive government measure that threatens individual rights should undergo some sort of serious proportionality review. While proportionality principles are increasingly employed, courts have not been explicit about this fact and no unified theory has emerged; we can all be grateful for the conceptual groundwork and rigorous definitions developed here by E. Thomas Sullivan and Richard S. Frase. This book is certain to be an important addition to any public law scholar's library."—Herbert Hovenkamp, Ben V. and Dorothy Willie Professor of Law and History, University of Iowa

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195324938
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/5/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

E. Thomas Sullivan is Senior Vice President and Provost of the University of Minnesota and Julius E. Davis Chair in Law.

Richard S. Frase is the Benjamin N. Berger Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Minnesota.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3

I Origins: From the Annals of History to the Twenty-first Century 13

1 Proportionality in International and Foreign Law 15

2 Proportionality Principles in the Common Law of Damages 37

II Proportionality in American Civil Jurisprudence 51

3 Implicit Proportionality Principles in American Standards of Constitutional Review 53

4 Explicit Proportionality Principles in Discrete Areas of American Jurisprudence 67

III Proportionality in American Criminal Justice 91

5 Procedure: Implicit Proportionality Limits on Police Powers and Defendant Rights 95

6 Criminal Law: Implicit Proportionality Limitations on Criminal Liability 115

7 Punishment: Explicit and Implicit Proportionality Limits on Sanction Severity 129

Conclusion 169

Notes 175

Subject Index 251

Case Index 277

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