Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Podcast: Lessig, Levinson on changing the Constitution

April 17, 2014 by NCC Staff


In the first of a series of podcasts on Changing the Constitution, Lawrence Lessig from Harvard and Sanford Levinson from the University of Texas join the National Constitution Center’s Jeffrey Rosen to discuss if America needs a second Constitutional convention and what challenges such a meeting would pose.

As you’ll recall from civics class, Article V of the Constitution lays out two ways to amend the Constitution. One involves amendments that originate in Congress and are sent to the states for approval. The first process has been used 17 times since the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights were ratified in 1791.

The second method has never been used. It involves petitions from at least 34 states to call a constitutional convention. An amendment or amendments are then sent on to the states, where 38 states are needed for ratification.

That is the simple part of the story. It gets much more complicated explaining how an Article V convention process would work, since it has never been done before and the Founders left key components of the process undefined.

Joining us to wade through these hypotheticals and the big issue of the need for such a convention are two of the country’s leading Article V experts.

Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. He is at the forefront of national discussions about an Article V convention, and hosted a conference on the subject at Harvard in 2011.

Sanford Levinson is the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas Law School. He is the author of over 350 articles and book reviews in professional and popular journals, and his most recent book is “Framed: America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance.”

You can listen to the full podcast below in the player or click the following link: Download this episode (right click and save)


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