Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz argues that judicial review should always begin with the question "Who has violated the Constitution?".

Abstract: Two centuries after Marbury v. Madison, there remains a deep confusion about quite what a court is reviewing when it engages in judicial review. Conventional wisdom has it that judicial review is the review of certain legal objects: statutes, regulations. But strictly speaking, this is not quite right. The Constitution prohibits not objects but actions. Judicial review is the review of such actions. And actions require actors: verbs require subjects. So before judicial review focuses on verbs, let alone objects, it should begin at the beginning, with subjects. Every constitutional inquiry should begin with a basic question that has been almost universally overlooked. The fundamental question, from which all else follows, is the who question: who has violated the Constitution?

As judicial review is practiced today, courts skip over this bedrock question to get to the more familiar question: how was the Constitution violated? But it makes no sense to ask how, until there is an answer to who. Indeed, in countless muddled lines of doctrine, puzzlement about the predicates of constitutional violation follows directly from more fundamental confusion about the subjects.

This is a brilliant new approach to judicial review. The point is that if a statute is unconstitutional, then Congress violated the Constitution by enacting the statute. You shouldn't have to wait for the statute to be enforced or applied to you in order to challenge it, because an unconstitutional statute is unconstitutional immediately.

(HT: Randy Barnett, Instapundit.)

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