Searching for relevant arguments: the structure of constitutional argumentation

Available in Russian

Price 180 Rub.

Author: Aldar Chirninov

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2022-3-33-61

Keywords: legal argumentation; constitutional justice; argumentation structure; standpoint; reasoning; premises


Being a kind of evaluation activity, constitutional review requires proceeding with a set of tasks, starting from determining criteria for constitutionality, describing prescriptive properties of challenged legal norms, and ending with their comparison, which results in the complex nature of constitutional argumentation. Analyzing what elements the structure of constitutional argumentation consists of, the author demonstrates that a primary thesis of constitutional argumentation can be presented as a normative statement containing an indication of the circumstances in which a legal norm at issue is implemented, followed by a positive or negative judgment about its constitutionality. In doing so, a constitutional review organ may specify a primary thesis by expanding or narrowing the scope of judicial review and framing constitutionally significant circumstances in which a challenged legal norm is to be enforced (typical law enforcement situation). Since the structure of argumentation expresses the connection between premises and a thesis, the article explores the grounds on which certain statements are recognized as relevant to the unfolding discussion about the constitutionality of legal norms. In the author’s view, arguments can be identified as relevant if they strengthen constitutional normativity. At the constitutionally due level, this strengthening occurs through unleashing the regulatory potential of constitutional provisions, whereas, at the level of normatively present, constitutional normativity intensifies when a constitutional review organ accurately describes prescriptive properties of challenged legal norms and indicates ways to address their unconstitutionality. Taking into account how constitutional review is exercised, the author identifies three argumentation levels: prescriptive, where a court should set constitutional standards of lawmaking; descriptive, where a court gives an accurate description of prescriptive properties of challenged legal norms; evaluative, where legal norms at issue should be directly compared to constitutional provisions. Finally, the article examines argumentation schemes used to justify court rulings that diverge from a primary thesis on constitutionality. It is shown that these arguments do not per se affect the conclusion about the unconstitutionality of the challenged legal norms but only lead to the decision to temporarily keep struck down legal norms in force.

About the author: Aldar Chirninov – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Researcher, Institute of Philosophy and Law, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Associate Professor, Ural State Law University named after V.F.Yakovlev, Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Citation: Chirninov A. (2022) V poiskakh relevantnykh argumentov: struktura konstitutsionno-sudebnoy argumentatsii [Searching for relevant arguments: the structure of constitutional argumentation]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 33–61. (In Russian).


Alexy R. (2010) A Theory of Constitutional Rights, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Bernal C. (2013) Legal Argumentation and the Normativity of Legal Norms. In: Dahlman Ch., Feteris E. (eds.) Legal Argumentation Theory: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 103–112.

Bryushinkin V.N. (2010) Dostoinstva i nedostatki logicheskogo podkhoda k modelirovaniyu argumentatsii [The advantages and disadvantages of the logical approach to argumentation modelling]. Vestnik Rossiyskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta imeni I.Kanta, no. 12, pp. 96–105. (In Russian).

Chirninov A. (2021) Ubedit’ nel’zya prinudit’: tsel’ i funktsii konstitutsionno-sudebnoy argumentatsii [To persuade or not to persuade? On the purpose and functions of constitutional argumentation]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 68–96. (In Russian).

Coenen M. (2015) Combining Constitutional Clauses. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, vol. 164, no. 5, pp. 1067–1130.

Dolzhikov A. (2014) “Rukopisi ne goryat”: nepisanye prava v konstitutsionnom pravosudii [“Manuscripts don’t burn”: Unwritten rights in constitutional adjudication]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 23, no. 1. pp. 120–137. (In Russian).

Gadzhiev G.A. (2013) Konstitutsiya Rossiyskoy Federatsii 1993 g. s tochki zreniya pravovoy aksiologii [The Constitution of the Russian Federation of 1993 from the viewpoint of legal axiologys]. Yuridicheskiy mir, no. 12, pp. 27–30. (In Russian).

Garner B.A. (1994) The Deep Issue: A New Approach to Framing Legal Questions. The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 5, pp. 1–35.

Govier T. (1992) What Is a Good Argument? Metaphilosophy, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 393–409.

Greenberg C., Weingast M. (2015) Persuasive Issue Statements. The Writing Center at Georgetown University Law Center. Available at: (accessed: 09.06.2022).

Huhn W.R. (2014) The Five Types of Legal Argument, Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

Kimble J. (2001) First Things First: The Lost Art of Summarizing. Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 30–35.

Kokotov A.N. (2020) Konstitutsionnyy Sud Rossii i makropravovoe regulirovanie [The Russian Constitutional Court and macro-legal regulation]. Konstitutsionnoe i munitsipal’noe pravo, no. 3, pp. 3–7. (In Russian).

Kreit A. (2010) Making Sense of Facial and As-Applied Challenges. William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 657–707.

Lebovits G. (2006) You Think You Have Issues? The Art of Framing Issues in Legal Writing – Part I. New York State Bar Association Journal, vol. 78, no. 4, pp. 53–55.

Paglieri F., Castelfranchi C. (2014) Trust, Relevance, and Arguments. Argument & Computation, vol. 5. nos. 2–3, pp. 216–236.

Povarnin S.I. (2015) Spor. O teorii i praktike spora [Dispute. On the theory and practice of dispute], Moscow: Flinta: Nauka. (In Russian).

Scalia А., Garner B.A. (2008) Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, Saint Paul, MN: Thomas/West.

Schauer F. (1994) Giving Reasons. Stanford Law Review, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 633–659.

Sorkin D.E. (1995) Persuasive Issue Statements. Illinois Bar Journal, vol. 83, pp. 138–139.

Sunstein C.R. (2018) Legal Reasoning and Political Conflict, New York: Oxford University Press.

Troitskaya A. (2021) Selektivnaya ratsional’nost’? Argumentatsiya Konstitutsionnogo Suda RF o srokakh polnomochiy Prezidenta v zerkale kognitivistiki [Selective rationality? Argumentation of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation on the terms of office of the President in the mirror of cognitive science]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 84–99. (In Russian).

Vasil’ev L.G., Kas’yanova Yu.I. (2012) Argument i ego strukturnaya interpretatsiya [Argument and its structural interpretation]. Vestnik Udmurtskogo universiteta. Seriya Istoriya i filologiya, no. 4, pp. 119–125. (In Russian).

Vydrin I.V. (2017) Ob otrasli i nauke konstitutsionnogo prava Rossii [On branch and scholarship of constitutional law in Russia]. Konstitutsionnoe i munitsipal’noe pravo, no. 5, pp. 3–8. (In Russian).

Walton D. (2004) Relevance in Argumentation, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Walton D., Reed Ch., Macagno F. (2008) Argumentation Schemes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.