Dr Conor Casey's essay cited in The United States Federal Court of Appeals

Published on

Profile picture of Dr Conor Casey

An essay written by Dr Conor Casey, Lecturer in Law at the School of Law and Social Justice, has been cited in The United States Federal Court of Appeals.

Myths of Common Good Constitutionalism, was co-authored with Professor Adrian Vermeule (Harvard Law School) for the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. It outlines and defends a classical natural law approach to constitutional law and interpretation, which sees the purpose of political authority as securing the common good and law as an ordinance of reason whose aim is to help promote the common good.  

The essay argues that choices about the legal interpretation of statutes and constitutions cannot be neatly severed from moral reasoning. Judges must morally justify the legal rules and standards they use to interpret law and discern the lawmakers’ intentions.

The United States Federal Court of Appeals cited Casey & Vermeule’s essay in Lopez v. United States No. 21-1490 (3d Cir. 2022) to support its assertion that when a Court is deciding how to approach legal interpretation, it must bear in mind that law is a reasoned and purposive enterprise. So, when a Court is dealing with legislation addressed to the general public, it should generally rely on the statute’s ordinary public meaning, because doing so better allows people to understand and follow it, and this conduce to the common good. However, where a statute is not addressed to the general public but speaks with a specialized or professional audience in mind, it may be more conducive to the common good that it be interpreted with that specialism in mind, as this will help advance the policy goals of the lawmaker. In both instances, considerations about how law is a reasoned activity ordered to the common good should influence the legal rules judges use to interpret legal materials. 

Read Myths of Common Good Constitutionalism in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy here.