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To Her Majesty’s Subjects Citizens: I understand that the new British prime minister wants to create a written constitution. And according to a recent poll, 68 percent of you Brits support the idea. I guess that makes sense: Whenever one of our countries finds itself with an imperial leader named George, constitutional scriveners across the pond grab for their quills. So, yes, we accept your apology for dallying 200 years on the whole constitutional democracy thing. After all, you’re doing lots to modernize your legal system these days. From what I hear, British “solicitors” can now act like “barristers.” That must be lovely for all of them, whatever it means. And I’ve read that British lawyers are getting rid of their white powdered wigs — although they’ll probably still wear the wigs in criminal cases. So British lawyers are almost getting rid of their wigs. Well, congratulations, that’s very bold of you. Really. Now that you’re finishing with the whole wig thing, you’ve decided to take the next logical step and write up a real constitution (never mind that our Framers might well have kept their thinking wigs on whilst they wrote). You’ll quickly realize that written constitutions are really quite nifty. And you’ll be honored to join the written constitution club, which has some truly outstanding members. These states are role models that any polity can learn from. A FEW SHINING LIGHTS Take, for instance, Vermont. Vermont has had more or less the same constitution since 1793. Look at everything they’ve done with those centuries of constitutionalism. Like what, you ask? Well, Vermont has managed to refrain from invading New Hampshire. It has become the maple syrup master of the world. And it gave us all the gift of Ben & Jerry’s. Sweet place. Here’s another nation you’re sure to find impressive: the former Soviet Union. That’s right, the USSR had a written constitution! It even guaranteed freedom of religion, speech, press, and “assembly, meetings, street processions and demonstrations.” That worked well for the Soviets, didn’t it? Now you can follow in their footsteps. Or how about this nation with a brand new constitution written by today’s best and brightest legal minds, talent that might also be willing to help you? Before I divulge the name of the country, let me offer you a sample of the constitution: It says that the country “is a single, independent, federal state with full sovereignty. Its system of government is republican, representative, parliamentary, and democratic. This Constitution is the guarantor of its unity.” That’s really quite inspiring. In fact, maybe you could just adopt this constitution as your own because the sovereign nation of Iraq doesn’t seem to be using it much. OUR HUMBLE EXEMPLAR Otherwise, maybe you can look for guidance to the U.S. Constitution. It’s a wonderful model — you get three squabbling branches of government for the price of one. Granted, our foundational document has had some problems. We had to fight a civil war in the 1860s to abolish slavery. We had to pass amendments to allow most adults to vote. And there are still a few glitches, whatever your political views. Our Framers left out lots of things. For instance, I guess they just plain forgot to enshrine a right to contraception or abortion in the Constitution. They also didn’t ban gay marriage. And they could have been clearer about when we can brandish our assault rifles. They didn’t even mention anything about a God-given right to worship God in public schools. Oh, and they forgot to explicitly say that those of us who live in the capital city of the nation they created have the right to vote for the members of Congress who run the nation they created. Messrs. Madison and Franklin and Hamilton and the rest left out so many things that we’ve had to amend the Constitution 27 times (so far). Then there’s the question of who’s in charge of interpreting a constitution once it’s written. We settled this one early on, in Marbury v. Madison (1803), when the judiciary claimed dibs. It makes a certain amount of sense — there’s something appealing about having neutral judges above the political fray weigh some of the biggest national questions. Then again, nobody elects our federal judges, and they do have life tenure. And if you take our Declaration of Independence (from you) seriously, the whole point of the Revolutionary War was to make sure that unelected rulers couldn’t control our fate. So though we’re comfortable with judges making big decisions, we’re not really comfortable. After all, the very first article of our Constitution establishes Congress’ power, not the judiciary’s. But we’ve come up with a good solution to seating a bench — confirmation hearings in the Senate. And we make a point of keeping those hearings serious and sober, without any showboating or shenanigans. At least, that’s the idea. WHAT COULD GO WRONG? But maybe the biggest problem with our Constitution is captured in an old observation, namely, that the judges who interpret it don’t have any military battalions to back up their decisions. And the president has lots of battalions. So if a president decides to gloss over the rules, there’s no easy way to stop him. Just ask Jos� Padilla. From what I understand, your prime minister wants your country to adopt a written constitution to keep a government (say, Tony Blair’s) from going to war (say, in Iraq) against the wishes of the people. A written constitution, so the reasoning goes, will give your Parliament final say on whether to declare war, and it may also grant certain well-defined rights to your citizens. Simply put, a written constitution will ensure that no single leader can defy the democratic will. This is an excellent thought. We Americans had the same idea. Just one question: Can you please let us know if you can get it to work?
Evan P. Schultz is an associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Mayer Brown. The opinions expressed here are his alone and do not represent the views of his firm or its clients.

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