Research - Article V Convention

The majority of serious scholarly work around an Article V Convention has concluded that the states have the constitutional authority to call a convention limited to a specific topic and that mechanisms are in place for that limitation on subject matter to be enforced. 

There is a wealth of information and precedence around the subject of an Article V Convention. We think it's important to understand the discussions around this topic by reading as much as you can of the research that has been conducted and collected for decades.

Thank you for your interest in learning all you can and engaging in this important discussion so that we can work together to do everything in our power to make America a more inclusive, more democratic, and a more perfect union.

 

Quotes about the Article V Convention 

"I think the convention can be limited. The fact is that the majority of the scholars in America share my view."-Hon. Griffin Bell, Attorney General o f the United States, Issues and Answers, February 11, 1979.

 

“Since it is undisputed that Congress possesses the authority to propose amendments limited to a single topic or group of topics, it follows that the applications of the states for calling a constitutional convention also may be limited. This understanding is reinforced by the normal practice of the states in limiting by subject their applications to the Congress.”
-U.S. Department of Justice  

 

“… an agreement that a convention ought to be held is required among two-thirds of the state legislatures before Congress is empowered to convene such a body. If the agreement contemplates a convention dealing only with a certain subject matter, as opposed to constitutional revision generally, then the convention must be logically limited to that subject matter. To permit such a body to propose amendments on any other subject would be to recognize the convention's right to go beyond that specific consensus which is the absolute prerequisite for its creation and legitimate action." 
-Professor Arthur Earl Bonfield, The Dirksen Amendment and the Article V Convention Process, 66 Mich. L. Rev. 949, 994 (1968). 

 

An Article V Convention is a “deliberative meeting to seek out solutions to a problem,” and the word “propose” cannot be stretched to mean “ratify.”
-Senator Robert Kennedy 

 

"From this history of the origins of the amending provision, we are led to conclude that there is no justification for the view that Article V sanctions only general conventions. Such an interpretation would relegate the alternative method to an "unequal" method of initiating amendments. Even if the state legislatures overwhelmingly felt that there was a necessity for limited change in the Constitution, they would be discouraged from calling for a convention if that convention would automatically have the power to propose a complete revision of the Constitution." 
-American Bar Association (in its Report of the ABA Special Constitutional Convention Study Committee) 

 

"It is no coincidence that many of those scholars who have concluded that Article V permits limited constitutional conventions base their conclusions substantially on the debates at the Federal Convention of 1787. These scholars emphasize the purpose of Article V, and typically they view Article V as a provision governing federal-state relations, or, more pointedly, federal-state antagonisms. Viewed as such, Article V takes its place with the many other provisions of the Constitution that divide and balance governmental power between the states and the national government."
-U.S. Department of Justice 

 

"The argument that a convention must be as free as the Congress to propose amendments, and therefore must be unlimited in its authority, is based on a confusion about the Congress' dual role under the congressionally-initiated mode of amendment. When the Congress initiates the amendment process, it undertakes two logically distinct functions: it determines that a need for change exists, and it proposes a specific amendment. Although these two steps are taken virtually simultaneously, they are in fact separate stages in the amendment process. It is only the former step, the determination of necessity, that necessarily implies unlimited scope in the congressional power to consider any topic. The latter step, formulating a proposed text, is necessarily limited by the topic that led to the determination of necessity. The parallelism these scholars overlook is that the convention is equal to the Congress as the drafting body but is not equal to the Congress as the body that decides that there is a need for change. Under the convention mode, the states have already determined that there is a need for change; this determination manifests itself in their applications. Thus, the states are equal to the Congress in the determination of necessity stage, the stage that is necessarily unlimited in scope. But the convention is equal to the Congress in the formulation stage, the stage that is limited in scope."  
-U.S. Department of Justice 

 

“That is the convention’s role: to provide an alternative to Washington as the place where our nation’s constitutional problems can be addressed and possibly solved. The framers of our Constitution picked state legislators as the backstop for the republic. They gave them the duty to step up if Congress loses its capacity to govern. That loss has happened. The American government has failed. The only question now is whether state legislatures will cower behind the ‘what ifs’ or do their job.”
-Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig

 

"It may be the case that the very things that make us want to change the influence of corporate money on politics will make it essentially inconceivable that Congress would propose that amendment to the states."
-Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe

 

Legal Reports about the Article V Convention 

The Department of Justice Report - Office of Legal Policy (Click Here

Congressional Research Service - Historical Perspectives (Click Here

Congressional Research Service - Contemporary Issues (Click Here)  

Congressional Research Service - Current Developments (Click Here)

The American Bar Association -  Convention Method Under Article V (Click Here

 

 

 

 

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