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The Constitution Annotated Online Celebrates Its First Anniversary

This is a guest post by Jeanne Dennis, Acting Assistant Director of the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service.

Last Constitution Day, September 17, 2019, the Library launched constitution.congress.gov, a new website for Congress’s official record of the Constitution: The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation. For over 100 years, this Senate document—better known as the Constitution Annotatedhas provided to Congress and the public an explanation of every provision of the Constitution and how the Supreme Court’s interpretations of those provisions have evolved over the course of the nation’s history. Since its launch a year ago, the Constitution Annotated website has had over a million visits and millions of page views, educating people across the nation and around the world on the Constitution.

Figure 1: The homepage of the Constitution Annotated online as of September 11, 2020, featuring a new animated carousel, a new U.S. Constitution menu item, and a new Updates menu item. Since its launch in 2019, the Constitution Annotated website has evolved incorporating improvements to enhance user experience. For more, please visit: https://constitution.congress.gov/

Figure 1: The homepage of the Constitution Annotated online as of September 11, 2020, featuring a new animated carousel, a new U.S. Constitution menu item, and a new Updates menu item. Since its launch in 2019, the Constitution Annotated website has evolved incorporating improvements to enhance user experience. For more, please visit: https://constitution.congress.gov/

Recognizing the importance of a reliable source of information on the Constitution, one free from political bias, Congress mandated that the Librarian of Congress prepare the Constitution Annotated. The Librarian, in turn, delegated this task to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Written in plain English by attorneys of CRS’s American Law Division, the Constitution Annotated conforms to CRS’s standards of objective, authoritative, timely, and non-partisan analysis that inform all CRS advice to Congress. To make the Constitution readily accessible to those without legal training, the Constitution Annotated details the historical contexts surrounding Supreme Court precedents and elucidates the various approaches that Supreme Court justices have employed when ruling on constitutional questions. Continually updated, the Constitution Annotated provides an analysis of the Constitution to assist Congress and the public in understanding America’s legal foundation.

While the Constitution Annotated was first conceived in the 19th century, the new website, constitution.congress.gov, brings this essential resource fully into the 21st century. Featuring advanced search tools and a modern user-friendly interface, the website makes the 3,000 pages of the Constitution Annotated fully searchable and accessible to online audiences. Since its launch, the Library has further honed the website, adding new features such as a homepage carousel that highlights key issues, an Updates page to announce recent changes to the content, improved search functionality, and streamlined Browse navigation. The Constitution Annotated also features discussions of emerging constitutional law issues, Library of Congress resources for researching the Constitution, and supplemental resources, such as the table of Supreme Court justices, the table of Supreme Court decisions overruled by subsequent decisions, and the table of laws the Supreme Court has held unconstitutional in whole or in part.

Figure 2: The Table of Supreme Court Decisions Overruled by Subsequent Decision as of September 11, 2020. For more, please visit: https://constitution.congress.gov/resources/decisions-overruled/.

Figure 2: The Table of Supreme Court Decisions Overruled by Subsequent Decision as of September 11, 2020. For more, please visit: https://constitution.congress.gov/resources/decisions-overruled/

Please celebrate Constitution Day by exploring the Constitution Annotated and sharing it with your friends and colleagues.

Figure 3: You can find a link to the Constitution Annotated on the homepage of congress.gov as indicated above.

Figure 3: You can find a link to the Constitution Annotated on the homepage of congress.gov as indicated above.

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