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Great Cases in Constitutional Law
Edited by Robert P. George

Paperback | 2000 | $37.50 | £31.95 | ISBN: 9780691049526
216 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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Slavery, segregation, abortion, workers' rights, the power of the courts. These issues have been at the heart of the greatest constitutional controversies in American history. And in this concise and thought-provoking volume, some of today's most distinguished legal scholars and commentators explain for a general audience how five landmark Supreme Court cases centered on those controversies shaped the country's destiny and continue to affect us even now. The book is a profound exploration of the Supreme Court's importance to America's social and political life. It is also, as many of the contributors show, an intriguing reflection of what some have seen as an important trend in legal scholarship away from an uncritical belief in the essentially benign nature of judicial power.

Robert George opens with an illuminating survey of the themes that unite and divide the five cases. Other contributors then examine each case in detail through a lively commentary-and-response format. Mark Tushnet and Jeremy Waldron exchange views on Marbury v. Madison, the pivotal 1803 case that established the power of the courts to invalidate legislation. Cass Sunstein and James McPherson discuss Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), the notorious case that confirmed the rights of slaveowners, declared that black people could not be American citizens, and is often seen as a cause of the Civil War. Hadley Arkes and Donald Drakeman explore the legacy of Lochner v. New York (1905), a case that ushered in decades of judicial hostility to social welfare laws. Earl Maltz and Walter Murphy assess Brown v. Topeka Board of Education (1954), the famous case that ended racial segregation in public schools. Finally, Jean Bethke Elshtain and George Will tackle Roe v. Wade (1973), still a flashpoint a quarter of a century later in the debate over abortion. While some of the contributors show sympathy for strong judicial interventions on social issues, many across the ideological spectrum are sharply critical of judicial activism.

A compelling introduction to the greatest cases in U.S. constitutional law, this is also an enlightening glimpse of the state of the art in American legal scholarship.


"This book provides an excellent overview of landmark Supreme Court Cases, most of which impacted the court's power and direction."--Booklist

"A collection of scholarly but accessible essays. . . . The principal essays range in style from professorial disputation to impassioned moral advocacy.. . . [This] volume thoughtfully explains the views of those who advocate more of the original Constitution, and less of the Supreme Court, in American political life."--Publishers Weekly

"All essays provide interesting insight into the concepts of judicial review and judicial activism. . . . [An] excellent book. . . . I highly recommend it to all."--Ruth Ann Wary, Law and Politics Book Review


"The United States Supreme Court is among the most important, but least understood, institutions in American life. Its decisions can profoundly affect, for good or ill, the well-being of our republic. Great Cases in Constitutional Law should be read because it will further the public's understanding of the Court's role. It is a book of many learned essays--provocative, illuminating, compelling."--William J. Bennett

"In a country where nearly every major public issue is affected by Supreme Court opinions, the Great Cases are too important to remain the preserve of legal specialists. Robert George has performed a genuine service by bringing together some of the country's leading public intellectuals to make accessible to the general reader the debates and decisions that have shaped, and continue to shape, our democratic experiment."--Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard University

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Table of Contents:

Contributors vii
Introduction Robert P. George 3
CHAPTER ONE Marbury v. Madison and the Theory of Judicial Supremacy Mark Tushnet 17
CHAPTER TWO "Despotism in Some Form": Marbury v. Madison Jeremy Waldron 55
CHAPTER THREE Dred Scott v. Sandford and Its Legacy Cass R. Sunstein 64
CHAPTER FOUR Politics and Judicial Responsibility: Dred Scott v. Sandford James M. McPherson 90
CHAPTER FIVE Lochner v. New York and the Cast of Our Laws Hadley Arkes 94
CHAPTER SIX The Substance of Process: Lochner v. New York Donald Drakeman 130
CHAPTER SEVEN Brown v. Board of Education and "Originalism" Earl Maltz 136
CHAPTER EIGHT Originalism-The Deceptive Evil: Brown v. Board of Education Walter F. Murphy 154
CHAPTER NINE Roe v. Wade: Speaking the Unspeakable Jean Bethke Elshtain 175
CHAPTER TEN Judicial Power and Abortion Politics: Roe v. Wade George Will 192
Index 201

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