Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

The French Connection

I am about to spend a month teaching comparative constitutional rights at the Univ. Paris II Institute for Comparative Law and have been reading a lot of material related to French constitutional law, as well as about French attitudes towards U.S. constitutional law. I thought I would highlight some great new books. First, Professor Martin Rogoff’s “French Constitutional Law” from Carolina Academic Press is terrific. To start, he performs an invaluable service by translating a great amount of French constitutional material into English. This reminds me of Don Kommers’ crucial work on Germany. Rogoff’s timing could not be better, as well, because French constitutionalism is evolving, especially with adoption of the doctrine of la question prioritaire de constitutionnalite. This 2008 constitutional reform allows a kind of a-posteriori judicial review that is quite different from the French tradition of a-priori abstract review. This moves France a bit more in a U.S. direction, though it is still dramatically different. The casebook contains numerous documents revealing the debates about these changes. It also has fascinating historical material such as speeches by DeGaulle and Sarkozy to provide invaluable context. And it supplies the kind of philosophical and jurisprudential background needed to appreciate what’s occurring there. A really impressive work.

Next there’s Professor George Bilias’ “American Constitutionalism Around the World, 1776-1989.” This book has already received good reviews elsewhere and deals mainly with what the title suggests. Yet starting on page 89, it has a fascinating short historiagraphic section discussing the influences of the American framers on the French revolution and on the French Declaration of Human Rights, as well as regarding the French influences on the U.S. framers. It essentially recounts a chicken and egg debate. There are also discussions of U.S. influence and non-influence on France during other historical periods.

Finally, Professor Elisabeth Zoller has just authored a book containing leading U.S. Supreme Court cases translated into French called “Les grands arrets de la Cour supreme des Etats-Unis.” It’s essentially a casebook but it also contains trenchant and sophisticate commentaries and discussions of scholarship after each case. I think her choices of cases are excellent as is the book overall. Again, just the act of translation is priceless (despite google translate!) My only addition based on a first glance of the table of contents, would have been Youngstown Steel, but that’s just being nit picky.

In addition, there’s a relatively new and interesting French online journal regarding constitutionalism that sometimes addresses U.S. constitutionalism. For example, the latest issue contains a French review of David Strauss’ “Living Constitutionalism” book. The journal can be found at: The journal tables of contents can be viewed in English but it looks like most of the essays are in French. Enjoy the above reading if you can find the time!


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