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The Will Of The People

Author: Barry Friedman
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 9781429989954
Size: 11.83 MB
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In recent years, the justices of the Supreme Court have ruled definitively on such issues as abortion, school prayer, and military tribunals in the war on terror. They decided one of American history's most contested presidential elections. Yet for all their power, the justices never face election and hold their offices for life. This combination of influence and apparent unaccountability has led many to complain that there is something illegitimate—even undemocratic—about judicial authority. In The Will of the People, Barry Friedman challenges that claim by showing that the Court has always been subject to a higher power: the American public. Judicial positions have been abolished, the justices' jurisdiction has been stripped, the Court has been packed, and unpopular decisions have been defied. For at least the past sixty years, the justices have made sure that their decisions do not stray too far from public opinion. Friedman's pathbreaking account of the relationship between popular opinion and the Supreme Court—from the Declaration of Independence to the end of the Rehnquist court in 2005—details how the American people came to accept their most controversial institution and shaped the meaning of the Constitution.

The High Court The Constitution And Australian Politics

Author: Rosalind Dixon
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 1316276783
Size: 59.68 MB
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The High Court, the Constitution and Australian Politics is an in-depth exploration of the relationship between decisions of the High Court and broader political currents in Australia. It begins with an investigation of the patterns and effects of constitutional invalidation and dissent on the High Court over time, and their correlation with political trends and attitudes. It also examines the role of constitutional amendment in expressing popular constitutional understandings in the Australian system. Subsequent chapters focus on the eras marked by the tenure of the Court's 12 Chief Justices, examining Court's decisions in the context of the prevailing political conditions and understandings of each. Together, the chapters canvass a rich variety of accounts of the relationship between constitutional law and politics in Australia, and of how this relationship is affected by factors such as the process of appointment for High Court judges and the Court's explicit willingness to consider political and community values.

The Oxford Handbook Of The U S Constitution

Author: Mark Tushnet
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 019024576X
Size: 14.94 MB
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The Oxford Handbook of the U.S. Constitution offers a comprehensive overview and introduction to the U.S. Constitution from the perspectives of history, political science, law, rights, and constitutional themes, while focusing on its development, structures, rights, and role in the U.S. political system and culture. This Handbook enables readers within and beyond the U.S. to develop a critical comprehension of the literature on the Constitution, along with accessible and up-to-date analysis. The historical essays included in this Handbook cover the Constitution from 1620 right through the Reagan Revolution to the present. Essays on political science detail how contemporary citizens in the United States rely extensively on political parties, interest groups, and bureaucrats to operate a constitution designed to prevent the rise of parties, interest-group politics and an entrenched bureaucracy. The essays on law explore how contemporary citizens appear to expect and accept the exertions of power by a Supreme Court, whose members are increasingly disconnected from the world of practical politics. Essays on rights discuss how contemporary citizens living in a diverse multi-racial society seek guidance on the meaning of liberty and equality, from a Constitution designed for a society in which all politically relevant persons shared the same race, gender, religion and ethnicity. Lastly, the essays on themes explain how in a "globalized" world, people living in the United States can continue to be governed by a constitution originally meant for a society geographically separated from the rest of the "civilized world." Whether a return to the pristine constitutional institutions of the founding or a translation of these constitutional norms in the present is possible remains the central challenge of U.S. constitutionalism today.

The Second Amendment

Author: Michael Waldman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 1476747466
Size: 41.18 MB
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Widely acclaimed at the time of its publication, the life story of the most controversial, volatile, misunderstood provision of the Bill of Rights. At a time of increasing gun violence in America, Waldman’s book provoked a wide range of discussion. This book looks at history to provide some surprising, illuminating answers. The Amendment was written to calm public fear that the new national government would crush the state militias made up of all (white) adult men—who were required to own a gun to serve. Waldman recounts the raucous public debate that has surrounded the amendment from its inception to the present. As the country spread to the Western frontier, violence spread too. But through it all, gun control was abundant. In the twentieth century, with Prohibition and gangsterism, the first federal control laws were passed. In all four separate times the Supreme Court ruled against a constitutional right to own a gun. The present debate picked up in the 1970s—part of a backlash to the liberal 1960s and a resurgence of libertarianism. A newly radicalized NRA entered the campaign to oppose gun control and elevate the status of an obscure constitutional provision. In 2008, in a case that reached the Court after a focused drive by conservative lawyers, the US Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Constitution protects an individual right to gun ownership. Famous for his theory of “originalism,” Justice Antonin Scalia twisted it in this instance to base his argument on contemporary conditions. In The Second Amendment: A Biography, Michael Waldman shows that our view of the amendment is set, at each stage, not by a pristine constitutional text, but by the push and pull, the rough and tumble of political advocacy and public agitation.

Taking Liberties

Author: Susan N. Herman
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0199911983
Size: 48.75 MB
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In this eye-opening work, the president of the ACLU takes a hard look at the human and social costs of the War on Terror. Over a decade after 9/11, it is far from clear that the government's hastily adopted antiterrorist tactics--such as the Patriot Act--are keeping us safe, but it is increasingly clear that these emergency measures in fact have the potential to ravage our lives--and have already done just that to countless Americans. From the Oregon lawyer falsely suspected of involvement with terrorism in Spain to the former University of Idaho football player arrested on the pretext that he was needed as a "material witness" (though he was never called to testify), this book is filled with unsettling stories of ordinary people caught in the government's dragnet. These are not just isolated mistakes in an otherwise sound program, but demonstrations of what can happen when our constitutional protections against government abuse are abandoned. Whether it's running a chat room, contributing to a charity, or even urging a terrorist group to forego its violent tactics, activities that should be protected by the First Amendment can now lead to prosecution. Blacklists and watchlists keep people grounded at airports and strand American citizens abroad, although these lists are rife with errors--errors that cannot be challenged. National Security Letters allow the FBI to demand records about innocent people from libraries, financial institutions, and internet service providers without ever going to court. Government databanks now brim with information about every aspect of our private lives, while efforts to mount legal challenges to these measures have been stymied. Barack Obama, like George W. Bush, relies on secrecy and exaggerated claims of presidential prerogative to keep the courts and Congress from fully examining whether these laws and policies are constitutional, effective, or even counterproductive. Democracy itself is undermined. This book is a wake-up call for all Americans, who remain largely unaware of the post-9/11 surveillance regime's insidious and continuing growth.

Framed

Author: Sanford Levinson
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0199930872
Size: 16.91 MB
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In his widely acclaimed volume Our Undemocratic Constitution, Sanford Levinson boldly argued that our Constitution should not be treated with "sanctimonious reverence," but as a badly flawed document deserving revision. Now Levinson takes us deeper, asking what were the original assumptions underlying our institutions, and whether we accept those assumptions 225 years later. In Framed, Levinson challenges our belief that the most important features of our constitutions concern what rights they protect. Instead, he focuses on the fundamental procedures of governance such as congressional bicameralism; the selection of the President by the electoral college, or the dimensions of the President's veto power--not to mention the near impossibility of amending the United States Constitution. These seemingly "settled" and "hardwired" structures contribute to the now almost universally recognized "dysfunctionality" of American politics. Levinson argues that we should stop treating the United States Constitution as uniquely exemplifying the American constitutional tradition. We should be aware of the 50 state constitutions, often interestingly different--and perhaps better--than the national model. Many states have updated their constitutions by frequent amendment or by complete replacement via state constitutional conventions. California's ungovernable condition has prompted serious calls for a constitutional convention. This constant churn indicates that basic law often reaches the point where it fails and becomes obsolete. Given the experience of so many states, he writes, surely it is reasonable to believe that the U.S. Constitution merits its own updating. Whether we are concerned about making America more genuinely democratic or only about creating a system of government that can more effectively respond to contemporary challenges, we must confront the ways our constitutions, especially the United States Constitution, must be changed in fundamental ways.