Law, College of


Date of this Version



Eric Berger,The Rhetoric of Constitutional Absolutism, 56 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 667 (2015),


Though constitutional doctrine is famously unpredictable, Supreme Court Justices often imbue their constitutional opinions with a sense of inevitability. Rather than concede that evidence is sometimes equivocal, Justices insist with great certainty that they have divined the correct answer. This Article examines this rhetoric of constitutional absolutism and its place in our broader popular constitutional discourse. After considering examples of the Justices’ rhetorical performances, this Article explores strategic, institutional, and psychological explanations for the phenomenon. It then turns to the rhetoric’s implications, weighing its costs and benefits. This Article ultimately argues that the costs outweigh the benefits and proposes a more nuanced, conciliatory constitutional discourse that would acknowledge competing arguments without compromising legal clarity or the rule of law.