Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Patricia Rrapi


In France, over the last ten years, vagueness of statutes has been one of the most important constitutional issues. The Constitutional Council has developed a doctrine known as the "quality of law doctrine" which it uses to invalidate statutes that are "unintelligible" or "inaccessible." The quality of law doctrine is similar to the American vagueness Doctrine. In reality, there are several vagueness doctrines in U.S. Constitutional law. The best known is the one developed in First Amendment cases. But there are others, such as the intelligible principle doctrine, used to determine the validity of delegation of legislative powers. This Article discusses these different aspects of vagueness. But, the American vagueness doctrine is unknown in France. Therefore the purpose of this Article is to compare the American vagueness doctrine to the French quality of law doctrine, in order to bring out new discussions on the subject.

The vagueness doctrine in American law dates to 1878. In contrast, the quality of law doctrine is relatively new (1998/99), and is immature compared to the American vagueness doctrine. Moreover, major differences between the two systems of judicial review (particularly justiciability) make direct comparison difficult. Still, recent developments in the French system suggest that an understanding of the better-developed U.S. doctrine could be very useful in France. Similarly, American law can benefit from comparative analysis to doctrinal developments elsewhere.