Nimer Sultany

Nimer Sultany

S.J.D. Candidate

Graduate Fellow

nsultany at




The Poverty of Constitutional Theory: Justice, Legitimacy and Legitimation

The project is a critical appraisal of progressive egalitarian liberal constitutional theory. Liberal constitutional and political theory is generally characterized by a twofold move: detaching “legitimacy” from “justice” and detaching “justice” from the “good.” Thus, for many liberals, so long as the constitution of a political order is sufficiently or reasonably just, then the general structure of authority is legitimate. The detachment of “justice” from the “good” transforms “justice” into a juridical conception concerned with the assignment of rights and duties, as opposed to a more teleological conception that values a common conception of the “good.” Accordingly, substantive demands are raised within an already established and generally accepted (and acceptable) system. This project claims that this twofold separation is inadequate since it leads to an inadequate response to the existing legal and sociopolitical order. Thus, I argue for the need to rethink fundamental paradigms in current constitutional theory if we want to address and overcome the injustices of today’s social reality.

Accordingly, this project attempts to understand the responsibility of the social agent who encounters injustice in the legal order. Specifically, of interest is the role of the legal actor, mainly the judge, who faces the moral dilemma between ”rule of law” or “legitimacy”, on the one hand, and “justice,” on the other, as well as the subjective and objective constraints that form the context of his or her choice.  

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Critical Theory, with Professor Duncan Kennedy, Harvard Law School, Overall Faculty Supervisor
  • Constitutional Theory, with Professor Frank Michelman, Harvard Law School
  • Comparative Constitutional Law, with Professor Fredrick Schauer, Kennedy School of Government

Additional Research Interests

  • Political Theory
  • Human Rights Law
  • Post-colonialism


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate 2006-Present
  • University of Virginia, School of Law, LL.M. 2006
  • Tel Aviv University, Faculty of Law, LL.M. 2003
  •  The College of Management, School of Law, LL.B. 1999

Representative Publications

  • CITIZENS WITHOUT CITIZENSHIP: ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN MINORITY 2000-2002 (Mada al-Carmel - The Arab Center for Applied Social Research, 2003)
  • ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN MINORITY 2004 (Mada al-Carmel - The Arab Center for Applied Social Research, 2005)
  • The Perfect Crime: The Supreme Court, the Occupied Territories and al-Aqsa Intifada, 3 ADALAH'S REVIEW (LAW AND VIOLENCE) 49-57 (2002)
  • Redrawing the Boundaries of Citizenship: Israel's New Hegemony, 33(1) JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES 5-22 (2003)(coauthor)

Additional Information




Last Updated: March 27, 2009

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