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Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once remarked that the theory of an evolving, "living" Constitution effectively "rendered the Constitution useless." He wanted a "dead Constitution," he joked, arguing it must be interpreted as the framers originally understood it. In The Living Constitution, leading constitutional scholar David Strauss forcefully argues against the claims of Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Robert Bork, and other "originalists," explaining in clear, jargon-free English how the Constitution can sensibly evolve, without falling into the anything-goes flexibility caricatured by opponents. The living Constitution is not an out-of-touch liberal theory, Strauss further shows, but a mainstream tradition of American jurisprudence--a common-law approach to the Constitution, rooted in the written document but also based on precedent. Each generation has contributed precedents that guide and confine judicial rulings, yet allow us to meet the demands of today, not force us to follow the commands of the long-dead Founders. Strauss explores how judicial decisions adapted the Constitution's text (and contradicted original intent) to produce some of our most profound accomplishments: the end of racial segregation, the expansion of women's rights, and the freedom of speech. By contrast, originalism suffers from fatal flaws: the impossibility of truly divining original intent, the difficulty of adapting eighteenth-century understandings to the modern world, and the pointlessness of chaining ourselves to decisions made centuries ago. David Strauss is one of our leading authorities on Constitutional law--one with practical knowledge as well, having served as Assistant Solicitor General of the United States and argued eighteen cases before the United States Supreme Court. Now he offers a profound new understanding of how the Constitution can remain vital to life in the twenty-first century.
John Compton shows how evangelicals, not New Deal reformers, paved the way for the most important constitutional developments of the twentieth century. Their early-1800s crusade to destroy property that made immorality possible challenged founding-era legal protections of slavery, lotteries, and liquor sales and opened the door to progressivism.
American Constitutional History presents a concise introduction to the constitutional developments that have taken place over the past 225 years, treating trends from history, law, and political science. Presents readers with a brief and accessible introduction to more than two centuries of U.S. constitutional history Explores constitutional history chronologically, breaking U.S. history into five distinct periods Reveals the full sweep of constitutional changes through a focus on issues relating to economic developments, civil rights and civil liberties, and executive power Reflects the evolution of constitutional changes all the way up to the conclusion of the June 2015 Supreme Court term
What underlies this development? In this concise and highly engaging work, Federal Appeals Court Judge and noted author (From Brown to Bakke) J. Harvie Wilkinson argues that America's most brilliant legal minds have launched a set of cosmic constitutional theories that, for all their value, are undermining self-governance.
What would the Framers of the Constitution make of multinational corporations? Nuclear weapons? Gay marriage? They led a preindustrial country, much of it dependent on slave labor, huddled on the Atlantic seaboard. The Founders saw society as essentially hierarchical, led naturally by landed gentry like themselves. Yet we still obey their commands, two centuries and one civil war later. According to Louis Michael Seidman, it's time to stop. In On Constitutional Disobedience, Seidman argues that, in order to bring our basic law up to date, it needs benign neglect. This is a highly controversial assertion. The doctrine of "original intent" may be found on the far right, but the entire political spectrum--left and right--shares a deep reverence for the Constitution. And yet, Seidman reminds us, disobedience is the original intent of the Constitution. The Philadelphia convention had gathered to amend the Articles of Confederation, not toss them out and start afresh. The "living Constitution" school tries to bridge the gap between the framers and ourselves by reinterpreting the text in light of modern society's demands. But this attempt is doomed, Seidman argues. One might stretch "due process of law" to protect an act of same-sex sodomy, yet a loyal-but-contemporary reading cannot erase the fact that the Constitution allows a candidate who lost the popular election to be seated as president. And that is only one of the gross violations of popular will enshrined in the document. Seidman systematically addresses and refutes the arguments in favor of Constitutional fealty, proposing instead that it be treated as inspiration, not a set of commands. The Constitution is, at its best, a piece of poetry to liberty and self-government. If we treat it as such, the author argues, we will make better progress in achieving both.
American constitutional law has undergone a transformation. Issues once left to the people have increasingly become the province of the courts. Subjects as diverse as abortion rights and firearms regulations, health care reform and counterterrorism efforts, not to mention a millennial presidential election, are more and more the domain of judges. What sparked this development? In this engaging volume, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson argues that America's most brilliant legal minds have launched a set of cosmic constitutional theories that, for all their value, are undermining self-governance. Thinkers as diverse as Justices William Brennan and Antonin Scalia, Professor John Hart Ely, Judges Robert Bork and Richard Posner, have all produced seminal interpretations of our Founding document, but ones that promise to imbue courts with unprecedented powers. While crediting the theorists for the sparkling quality of their thoughts, Judge Wilkinson argues they will slowly erode the role of representative institutions in America and leave our children bereft of democratic liberty. The loser in all the theoretical fireworks is the old and honorable tradition of judicial restraint. The judicial modesty once practiced by Learned Hand, John Harlan, and Oliver Wendell Holmes has given way to competing schools of liberal and conservative activism seeking sanctuary in Living Constitutionalism, Originalism, Process Theory, or the supposedly anti-theoretical creed of Pragmatism. Each of these seemingly disparate theories promises their followers an intellectually respectable route to congenial political outcomes from the bench. Judge Wilkinson calls for a plainer, simpler, self-disciplined commitment to judicial restraint and democratic governance, a course that alas may be impossible so long as the cosmic constitutionalists so dominate contemporary legal thought.

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