Professor Gene Mazo to present Conference of the Young Comparativists Committee of the American Society of Comparative Law in Portland, Ore., on April 4-5

Professor Eugene Mazo

Photo of Professor Eugene Mazo

Professor Gene Mazo presents at the Third Annual Conference of the Young Comparativists Committee of the American Society of Comparative Law, which is gathering  at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Ore. The conference is being April 4-5, 2014.

Mazo’s paper is called ”Toward a Theory of Constitution-Making” and it puts together a unique framework to help scholars understand how framers from various countries should go about designing new constitutions during democratic transitions.
Professor Mazo says, “Despite the fact that academics have long debated which constitutions are most conducive to democratic stability, they have developed poor theories to explain why certain constitutions are adopted over others in the first place. Simply put, it so happens that scholars possess no real theory of constitution-making. If the foreign minister of a democratizing country calls me while I am sitting in my faculty office and asks for my advice on writing his country’s new constitution, where do I begin? The existing theories of constitutional choice tend to be parsimonious and incomplete, and they do not transfer well to foreign settings.”

“My presentation seeks to advance a theory of constitution-making: how the process should be carried out, by whom, and, especially, when. It will focus on the period of time between the fall of what might be the old constitutional order and the creation of a new one, a period of transitional uncertainty when political actors have the opportunity to create new legal and political institutions, and during which the ‘constitutional moment’ takes place,”  he continues. “I argue that the theory which goes furthest towards explaining constitutional choice is path-dependency. This is a broad term that is often used to convey the idea that one’s range of future options may be constrained by what was in place beforehand: it tells us, in other words, that political institutions rely on, and indeed may be constrained by, their predecessors. When new constitutions are written during democratic transitions, they are more often than not based on the constitution that existed previously. This means that new constitutions cannot, as some scholars have argued, simply be the product of the self-interested actors who establish them. Indeed, constitutions are able to reflect the preferences of powerful actors only when the constraints of prior institutions are not present. But in the real world, this rarely happens because framers do not draft new constitutions in a vacuum.”



Eugene Mazo is an expert in constitutional law and the law of democracy. He writes in the areas of constitutional law, election law, and the separation of powers, and he teaches those courses and also contracts, torts, and civil procedure. Professor Mazo’s research concerns constitutional governance, democratic development, and the regulation of the political process, with particular emphasis on the regulation of elections and the separation of powers.


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