The Common Law in the Supreme Court

Much of the Supreme Court’s work is devoted to interpreting statutes and regulations generated by the modern regulatory state. Increasingly, the common law tradition seems to be of little relevance to resolving the great disputes of our time. In my view, relegating common law principles to the back-bench constitutes a major source of confusion in the Supreme Court’s constitutional jurisprudence. The reason is that modern statutory law is heavily parasitic on the common law. A clear understanding of the uses and limits of common law principles is often the only way to see to the bottom of the well in many Supreme Court disputes.