Article V and the Single Amendment Convention

Can an Article V convention for proposing amendments be limited to considering a single amendment specified by the state legislatures in their applications? Even within the relatively sparse literature on the Article V convention, little attention has been paid to this question. Professor Rob Natelson, who has written extensively in support of the proposition that a convention may be limited to a particular subject, has expressed skepticism regarding the viability of a “single amendment convention.” Natelson’s view, however, is less a firm conclusion about the original meaning of Article V than a prediction regarding the practical difficulties likely to attend an effort to hold a single amendment convention, including the possibility that Congress or the courts would refuse to recognize it.

Recently a prominent originalist scholar, Professor Michael Rappaport (well known to the readers of this blog), has concluded that Article V permits a convention for proposing amendments to be limited by either subject or the wording of a particular amendment. See Michael B. Rappaport, The Constitutionality of a Limited Convention: An Originalist Analysis, 81 Const. Comm. 53, 56 (2012) (“The Constitution allows the state legislatures to apply not merely for a convention limited to a specific subject matter [but allows them] to draft a specially worded amendment and then to apply for a convention limited to deciding only whether to propose that amendment.”).

Although the issue is not free from doubt, I agree with Rappaport that the state legislatures have the power to limit an Article V convention to a single amendment. This is so for five reasons: Continue reading “Article V and the Single Amendment Convention”