Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Election Anxiety: The Other Global Pandemic

Andrea Scoseria Katz, Washington University in St. Louis, School of Law

[Editor’s note: This is one of our biweekly I-CONnect columns. For more information about our four columnists for 2020, please click here.]

On Monday, three days before Thursday’s televised encounter between U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced a rule change to the debate: each candidate will have his microphone muted while his rival delivers his answers to the moderator’s questions.

It may sound like a trivial procedural detail, hardly the sort of thing to get citizens’ pulses racing. But after a previous debate panned across the world as the worst in history, in which President Trump repeatedly interrupted his opponent and talked over the moderator, the rule change betrays a growing fear among Americans that, as far as concerns the 2020 presidential election, the usual norms of fair play, decency, and transparency may not hold by themselves.

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Published on October 21, 2020
Author:          Filed under: Analysis

What’s New in Public Law

Chiara Graziani, Research Fellow in Constitutional Law, University of Genoa (Italy) and Academic Fellow, Bocconi University (Italy)

In this weekly feature, I-CONnect publishes a curated reading list of developments in public law. “Developments” may include a selection of links to news, high court decisions, new or recent scholarly books and articles, and blog posts from around the public law blogosphere.

To submit relevant developments for our weekly feature on “What’s New in Public Law,” please email

Developments in Constitutional Courts

  1. The European Court of Justice ruled that EU law precludes national legislation requiring electronic communications providers to carry out the transmission or retention of traffic and location data in a general and indiscriminate way for the purpose of fighting crime or of safeguarding national security.
  2. The European Court of Justice held that right to an effective remedy requires that persons who hold information that is requested by the national administration, in the context of a cooperation procedure between Member States, must be able to bring a direct action against such a request.
  3. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held that the expulsion of aliens on national security grounds on the basis on classified information not disclosed to the applicant violates Protocol No. 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights.
  4. The US Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on whether administrative patent judges are principal officers of the United States who must be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
  5. The Turkish Constitutional Court decided that the review of employee emails and their use as grounds for termination violates the rights of privacy and freedom of communication of the applicant.
  6. The Constitutional Court of Slovakia upheld the declaration of a state of emergency due to the Covid-19 crisis.

In the News

  1. Advocate General Kokott advised the European Court of Justice that the Polish tax on the retail sector and the Hungarian advertisement tax do not infringe EU State aid rules.
  2. The US Senate Judiciary Committee heard arguments supporting and opposing the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
  3. The EU Commission adopted a new “Digital Finance Package”.
  4. The UK government is going to fast-track new Brexit related legislation, providing that vulnerable citizens already lawfully living in the country will be able to apply for settled status years after the 30 June 2021 deadline.
  5. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, announced a new law against “religious separatism” in France.

New Scholarship

  1. Ágúst Þór Árnason, Catherine Dupré (eds.), Icelandic Constitutional Reform (Routledge, forthcoming 2021) (providing the first comprehensive analysis of Icelandic constitutional reform)
  2. Adam Chilton and Mila Versteeg, How Constitutional Rights Matter (Oxford University Press, 2020) (documenting constitutional rights enforcement globally through statistical analyses, surveys, and case studies)
  3. Elena Griglio, Parliamentary Oversight of the Executives (Hart Publishing, 2020) (arguing that, although oversight of executives has always been a key function of parliaments and central to developing the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government, in reality governments are taking a more pronounced role in controlling legislation)
  4. Dorota Mokrosinska (ed.), Transparency and Secrecy in European Democracies. Contested Trade-offs (Routledge, forthcoming 2020) (offering a critical discussion of the trade-offs between transparency and secrecy in the actual political practice of democratic states in Europe)
  5. Bui Ngoc Son, You, the People: Cuba’s International Constitution, NYU Journal of International Law and Politics (2020) (exploring how Cuba’s 2019 Constitution deals with issues of international law)
  6. Andras L. Pap, Neglect, Marginalization, and Abuse: Hate Crime Legislation and Practice in the Labyrinth of Identity Politics, Minority Protection, and Penal Populism, Nationalities Papers (2020) (shows the various ways legal policy can become misguided in the labyrinth of identity politics, minority protection, and penal populism)
  7. Christopher Thornhill, Democratic Crisis and Global Constitutional Law (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2021) (explaining the current weakness of democratic polities by examining antinomies in constitutional democracy and its theoretical foundations)
  8. Jure Vidmar (ed.), European Populism and Human Rights (Brill, 2020) (focusing on the recent challenge posed by right-wing populism to democratic consolidation in Europe and exploring the legal dimensions of this challenge)

Calls for Papers and Announcements

  1. The Human Rights Law Centre at Nottingham University will hold the webinar “After the First Wave? Initial Conclusions on Human Rights Impacts of C19” on October 19, 2020.
  2. The 3rd Bernhardt Lecture titled “‘To me, fair friend, you can never be old’: The European Convention on Human Rights at 70” will be held (in hybrid format) at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law.
  3. The Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin invites submissions for the seventh annual Graduate Conference in Public Law, to be held on March 26, 2021. Abstract must be submitted no later than December 15, 2020.
  4. The Italian Association of Comparative Law (AIDC) issued an international Call for Papers on “Comparative law in times of emergencies”. The deadline for submitting abstracts is January 7, 2021.
  5. The International Association of Constitutional Law convened a roundtable in St. Petersbug, Russia, on June 10-13, 2021. Applicants are required to submit their CV and abstracts in English no longer than 500 words by January 11, 2021.

Elsewhere Online

  1. Helmut Philipp Aust and Prisca Feihle, “I want to break free”: the WHO Foundation as an Experiment in the Financing of International Organisations, EJIL: Talk!
  2. John Bell, The Commission’s argument for breach of good faith against the United Kingdom: an in-depth analysis from the standpoint of public international law, European Law Blog
  3. Ronan Cormacain, Legislative Competence in Northern Ireland and the Independent Review of Administrative Law, UK Constitutional Law Blog
  4. Anna Gamper, Symposium: Constitutional Courts and their Powers – the Least Dangerous Branch?, IACL-AIDC Blog
  5. Tamar Hostovsky Brandes, An Emergency within an Emergency within an Emergency. Israel’s “Special Emergency Coronavirus Situation” and Freedom of Assembly, Verfassungsblog
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Published on October 19, 2020
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Freedom at Stake in Brazil: An Illiberal Project Unfolds Under Bolsonaro’s Regime

Special Series: Perspectives from Undergraduate Law Students

–Pedro Abrantes Martins, Bachelor’s degree candidate, Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), Brazil; Research Fellow, Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development; member of the research group “Abusive Constitutionalism and Democratic Erosion,” UFPR

Freedom is at stake in Brazil. In 2020 alone, the government and its enthusiasts launched attacks on journalists, comedians, and autonomous institutions. Officials issued orders enforcing censorship, affecting government agencies and compromising individual rights. Either by informal (such as verbal and physical attacks on media individuals) or formal means (by enacting new legal measures), Jair Bolsonaro and his allies are slowly hindering liberties in the country. The actions deployed by Bolsonaro may appear only mildly problematic when analyzed in isolation, but they represent a greater danger when analyzed – properly – together. The latest developments should be perceived as part of a bigger phenomenon: worldwide democratic erosion.

Eroding from the Inside: Compromising Institutions

In July 2020, the Brazilian Special Secretariat for Social Communication (Secom) paid several YouTube channels (including channels with content for children and accounts accused of spreading fake news) to display propaganda in favor of the new social security reform.

Not long after that, a national comedian posted a parody on the aforementioned advertisement and was bashed by Secom’s official Twitter account and the current top culture official, Mário Frias, who called the comedian a “filthy creature”. Shortly after, Flávio Serafini, a Brazilian congressman, criticized Frias, who, in a menacing tone, told the lawmaker to watch out for the Federal Police. The whole situation was widely condemned by other lawmakers and civilians.

In a more recent attack, on September 4, the secretary of Culture, Mario Frias, signed a circular letter that was issued to autonomous governmental institutions, determining that appointments, dismissals, transfers, publication of notices and posts on websites and social networks of all bodies linked to the Special Secretariat for Culture must be previously sent to and approved by the institution.

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Published on October 18, 2020
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ICON Editorial – A Modest Proposal on Zoom Teaching

J.H.H. Weiler, NYU School of Law; Co-Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Constitutional Law (ICON)

No preliminaries are necessary here. One result of Covid-19 has been a shift to online teaching by Zoom (or similar platforms). In some law faculties all teaching is online. In most faculties most teaching is online with some hybrid teaching, and in a few (privileged) places in-person teaching remains viable.

It is also a commonplace that most teachers find Zoom teaching inferior to in-person teaching, both from a didactic and a human point of view. The two are oftentimes intertwined.

And yet the impact of Zoom teaching will differ according to one’s style of teaching, and will affect some styles more than others. The challenge in each case, though, is to narrow the quality gap between in-person teaching and Zoom teaching, regardless of the style of teaching adopted.

At one end of the scale are those whose teaching is principally a lecture (with some time for questions at the end perhaps). At the other end are those, like myself, whose teaching, even in large classes, is principally through question and answer – the so-called Socratic method (though I am not sure what Socrates would think of this use of his name and method). Though the class is conducted through Q&A it is, as I tell my students, simply lecturing through their mouths, which has various benefits with which I need not trouble the reader here. I certainly do not want to argue for or against these different poles and the variants in between. Each has its pros and cons.

Grant me, however, that the gap between in-person and Zoom teaching is the narrowest the closer one’s style of teaching is to the formal lecture. In fact, there are several faculties where the online teaching, or significant parts of it, at least in larger classes, is by recorded lectures.

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Published on October 13, 2020
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Announcement: ICON-S Brazil Panels on Megacities and Constitutionalism

The ICON-S Brazilian Chapter is promoting two discussion panels on the issues of megacities and constitutionalism on October 30th.

In the first panel, which will be in English, Professor Ran Hirschl will present his new book: ‘City, State: Constitutionalism and the Megacity’, published this year by Oxford University Press. The book discusses problems related to urbanization and the growth of megacities around the world, analyzing this phenomenon while considering the silence of contemporary constitutions regarding this matter. Professor Virgílio Afonso da Silva and Estefânia Barboza will join Prof. Hirschl as commentators.

In the second panel, which will be in Portuguese, Professors Angela Costaldello, Bianca Tavolari and Rosangela Luft will discuss the applicability and implications of the concept of “megacity” in the Brazilian context. In addition to addressing the constitutional law issues, they will present insights from the perspective of their ongoing research in the field of urban law.’

Please see the following link for details and registration:

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Published on October 13, 2020
Author:          Filed under: Developments

What’s New in Public Law

Susan Achury Plaza, Texas Christian University

In this weekly feature, I-CONnect publishes a curated reading list of developments in public law. “Developments” may include a selection of links to news, high court decisions, new or recent scholarly books, and articles, and blog posts from around the public law blogosphere.

To submit relevant developments for our weekly feature on “What’s New in Public Law,” please email

Developments in Constitutional Court

  1. The Colombian Supreme Court ruled protecting the right to protest against police violence.
  2. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled against an attempt to block the subpoena to obtain President Donald Trump’s tax record after the Supreme Court ruled that the president does not have broad immunity when it comes to state grand jury subpoenas.
  3. European Court of Human Rights has decided to apply Rule 39 and now calls on all States directly or indirectly involved in the conflict, including Turkey, to refrain from actions that contribute to breaches of civilians Convention rights and to respect their obligations under the Convention.
  4. Canada Supreme Court to consider the constitutional rights of Native Americans with US citizenship.
  5. Mexican Supreme Court to decide on the constitutionality of voting by a secret ballot on a constitutional reform that involves human rights violates freedom of expression, access to information, and political participation of the LGBT + population in Yucatán.
  6. The Constitutional Court of Ecuador approved a referendum relating to mining activities, but it limited its effects to future concessions.

In the News

  1. In the US, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin Amy Barrett’s confirmation hearings October 12.
  2. Armenia’s Constitutional Court failed to elect its new chair after the amendment calling for the gradual resignation of seven of the court’s nine judges.
  3. Constitutional Court rejects appeal against Law on Criminal Enforcement
  4. Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has urged the restructuring of the Turkish Constitutional Court
  5. Colombian Prosecutor’s Office critics to the Supreme Court in the case of Álvaro Uribe
  6. In Chile, demand seeks to postpone the national plebiscite for COVID-19.

New Scholarship

  1. Ignacio Arana Araya  Melanie M. Hughes  Aníbal Pérez‐Liñán, Judicial Reshuffles and Women Justices in Latin America, (exploring institutional disruptions as a source of the appointment of women justices and the limitations to secure path to substantive progress in gender equality).
  2. Armin von Bogdandy, Jesús María Casal, Mariela Morales Antoniazzi, La resistencia del Estado democrático de Derecho en América Latina frente a la pandemia de COVID-19. Un enfoque desde el ius commune, (Examining how the ius constitutionale commune on states of emergency in Latin America, represents an essential constraint on emergency powers in times of COVID-19).
  3. Jaclyn Neo, A Contextual Approach to Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments: Judicial Power and the Basic Structure Doctrine in Malaysia (adopting a contextual approach to analyzing judicial engagement with the doctrine of unconstitutional constitutional amendments, with Malaysia as a main case example).
  4. Aaron Tang, Harm-Avoider Constitutionalism, California Law Review, Forthcoming (examining the US Supreme Court use of harm-avoider constitutionalism defined as a criteria of constitutional interpretation in which the court is deferent to those who had easier options for avoiding the harms of a judicial defeat).
  5. Jadson Correia de Oliveira, Raíssa Fernanda Cardoso Toledo, and Natanael Lima Santos, Judicial supremacy and institutional dialogues in the Brazilian constitutional order, (criticizing how  the  judicial supremacy system in the constitutional hermeneutics it is not the most garantist for democracy and minorities in comparison to a system of shared  interpretative competence among  different institutions).
  6. Michel Rosenfeld, The Role of Justice in the Constitution: The Case for Social and Economic Rights in Comparative Perspective, Cardozo Law Review Forthcoming (analyzing the potential for the US judicial indirect vindication of social and economic rights through the Due Process and Equal Protection clause).
  7. Josh Blackman, What Rights are “Essential”? The 1st, 2nd, and 14th Amendments in the Time of Pandemic. Liberty & Law Center Research Paper No. 20-04, (examining how the courts have interpreted the First, Second, and Fourteenth Amendments during the time of pandemic).

Call for Papers and Announcements

  1. The International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL) , has announced the Global Roundtable’ Democracy 2020: Assessing Constitutional Decay, Breakdown, and Renewal Worldwide’, (October 8).
  2. The International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL) has issued a call for papers on “Roundtable of IACL – Constitutional Identity.” (Due January 11, 2021).
  3. The Externado University, Colombia, has issued a call for papers on a special edition of the Revista Derecho del Estado on the 30th anniversary of the Colombian Constitution. (January 31, 2021).
  4. The American Political Science Association, has announced the 2021 Call for Proposals for the 117th APSA on “Promoting Pluralism.” (Due January 14, 2021).
  5. The Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison invites submissions for its annual First Book Manuscript Workshop. (Due November 15)
  6. The Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy (CSLD) invites applications for a postdoctoral fellowship in political theory. (Due January 15, 2021).

Elsewhere Online

  1. Isabelle Somma de Castro, Securitisation cannot stop the COVID-19 trafficking boom at the Triple Frontier between Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina, LSE blog
  2. Andrew Carico, John Marshall, Judicial Supremacy, and a Post-Ginsberg Court, Starting Points Journal
  3. Berihun Adugna Gebeye, Federalism Without Constitutionalism? IACL-IADC Blog.
  4. Bethany Shiner and Tanzil Chowdhury, Response to the Joint Committee of Human Rights call for evidence on the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, Queen Mary University of London.
  5. Gautam Bhatia, Executive Law-Making in Romania, Indian Constitutional Law and Philosophy.
  6. Renáta Uitz, Finally: The CJEU Defends Academic Freedom, Verfassungs blog
  7. David R. Cameron, European Council addresses Cyprus concerns with Turkey, agrees to sanctions on Belarus, MacMillan Center’s’ Program in European Union Studies at Yale.
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Published on October 12, 2020
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Losing the Battle to Win the War: Judicial Self-Empowerment Through Maxi-Minimalism

Yvonne Tew, Georgetown University Law Center[1]

[Editor’s note: This is one of our biweekly I-CONnect columns. For more information about our four columnists for 2020, please click here.]

On September 26, 2020, President Donald Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the United States Supreme Court to fill the seat occupied by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg until her death the week before.[2] The President’s nomination of a Supreme Court justicethe third of his presidency—thirty-eight days before the presidential election on November 3, set off a deeply divisive partisan battle over her confirmation. Democrats and Republicans have already begun to spar over Judge Barrett’s judicial philosophy and the confirmation process. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to move forward with the confirmation process this close to the presidential election has particularly incensed Democrats in light of the refusal of the Republican-controlled Senate in 2016 to allow a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.[3] Republicans have vowed to push ahead with confirming Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, despite the recent White House coronavirus outbreak that infected the President and a number Republican senators.[4] But this battle over the Court is not simply about Judge Barrett; nor is it even just about the process of this particular confirmation. With Judge Barrett’s confirmation likely to cement a solid conservative majority on the Supreme Court, those on either side of the political divide are treating the stakes of this confirmation as no less than a fight for the soul of the United States Supreme Court for decades to come.[5]

All of this reflects a broader fact about the role of the Supreme Court in the American constitutional system. The United States Supreme Court today occupies a position of judicial supremacy. Writing half a century ago, Alexander Bickel declared that the least dangerous branch of the American government had become “the most extraordinarily powerful court the world has ever known.”[6] That wasn’t always the case. The Court has come a long way since Chief Justice Marshall sat at the helm of a fragile court, and, facing the real possibility of immediate attack if the court ruled against the newly elected President, strategically asserted the authority of judicial review in Marbury v. Madison.[7] One hundred and fifty years later, a unanimous Supreme Court would declare in Cooper v. Aaron that “the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution.”[8]

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Published on October 7, 2020
Author:          Filed under: Analysis

The Unfinished Job of Marbury v. Madison: Appointment of Judges during an Electoral Campaign Period

Antonios Kouroutakis, Assistant Professor, IE University, Madrid.


Marbury v Madison[1] is a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court. In the words of Chief Justice Marshall the doctrine of Constitutional Supremacy was established and the power of the Courts to review and strike down acts of the legislative body, if and when ordinary legislation contradicts the constitution. That idea migrated all over the world, with the exception of constitutional orders such as the UK, and New Zealand,[2] and nowadays it is the norm rather than the exception. 

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Published on October 6, 2020
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Special Announcement: Welcome to IberICONect from the ICONnect Team!

Richard Albert, The University of Texas at Austin, Antonia Baraggia, University of Milan, Tom Ginsburg, University of Chicago, David Landau, Florida State University, and Jaclyn Neo, National University of Singapore

We are delighted to welcome the IberICONnect blog to the world. Like ICONnect, IberICONnect advances the missions of the International Journal of Constitutional Law (ICON) and the International Society of Public Law (ICON-S), in this case in an effort to reach the vast and expanding universe of Spanish-speaking readers in the field of public law.

The two blogs have separate editorial boards – IberICONnect has a wonderful team drawn from across Latin America and Southern Europe – but related, interlinked missions. We expect to publish independent content, but also to come together frequently for joint projects and cross-posting for the benefit of our readers.

Congratulations to the new editorial board of IberICONnect—Micaela Alterio, Maria Argelia Queralt Jiménez, and Jorge Ernesto Roa Roa—for launching this exciting new resource for Spanish-speaking scholars and practitioners in public law. Congratulations, too, to the Editors-in-Chief of ICON, Joseph Weiler and Gráinne de Búrca, for all of their efforts in making it possible for IberICONnect to come to life. We are excited to witness (and participate in) the growth and success of this wonderful project!

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Published on October 1, 2020
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The Centennial of the Austrian Federal Constitution

Prof. Dr. Anna Gamper, Universität Innsbruck

Amidst the Corona crisis, constitutional jubilees may be expected to pass rather undetected. A centennial, however–which the Austrian Federal Constitution celebrates today–is a noteworthy event even in troubled times. It demonstrates the endurance of a constitution that did not only survive authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, but has so far also withstood the recent pandemic and other crises.

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Published on October 1, 2020
Author:          Filed under: Analysis