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Ryan Doerfler & Samuel Moyn, After Courts: Democratizing Statutory Law, Mich. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2024).

Abstract: In Federalist No. 78, Alexander Hamilton argued for locating interpretive authority over law separately from those institutions tasked with formulating it. Hamilton’s vision, never accurate as a description of American practice, has not been credible for a long time. To the extent massive power is still allocated to judges, our legal institutions have been out of step with our legal theory, which has long regarded them as political actors and policymakers. More practically, every Term it is clearer and clearer that the role of the Supreme Court in statutory cases (including checking administrative rule-making and other processes) is, if anything, more menacing than its role in the rare instances when it deploys its heaviest weaponry of constitutional invalidation. Against progressive calls to reclaim the judiciary, this Article completes our proposal to disempower courts exercising lawmaking authority—including when they are interpreting statutes alone. Indeed, the same considerations that counsel the constitutional disempowerment of courts counsel their statutory disempowerment, and the allocation or reallocation of their authority over law to politically accountable agents. The heart of our Article offers a survey of court disempowerment strategies and tools, which are comparable to though not identical with the disempowerment mechanisms that have been proposed in the arena of constitutional reform. Such strategies and tools are appealing in the short term; but in the long term, a fuller rethinking our desirable institutional plan of legal interpretation beckons. Available and existing disempowerment strategies for courts are best conceived as early and partial versions of full-scale allocation of interpretive authority over law to “political” branches and openly political control.