Most helpful critical review
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A poor effort
on April 3, 2011
Reading this casebook to try to learn Constitutional Law is like trying to learn about the English language by reading a dictionary from cover to cover. This book shows how it is possible to have so much information in one book that the fundamental, essential concepts of the law are drowned out by trivial details.
As other reviewers have complained, this book glosses over some very important cases while giving too much attention to comparatively unimportant ones. For example the U.S. v. Carolene Products footnote--frequently described as one of the most important footnotes in the entire corpus of U.S. Constitutional law--is reduced to, well, a footnote's worth of information. In contrast, you get at least twenty pages of commentary from law review articles discussing why the right to free speech is important in a democratic society (Really? I had no idea!). It is enormously distracting, and makes it very difficult to determine what's important and what can ultimately be glossed over in preparation for the exam. Other casebooks I have used this year have had half the explanatory notes but triple the useful, helpful information that actually increases my understanding of the concepts beyond what the cases can provide.
The book's visual layout leaves a lot to be desired. A very simple but incredibly annoying detail is how there are no line breaks between the numbered endnotes in the note sections. Thus, in sorting through the page to extrapolate actual black letter rules and concepts, one gets lost in a sea of words, citations and numbers. Imagine a casebook with a commentary section that reads like a page-long string citation in a legal brief, and you'll get this book.
In sum, it has been extraordinary difficult to read this book and gain a useful context for the major concepts covered in a first-year ConLaw course. After reading citation after citation and law review article after law review article, one forgets why the cases assigned are even important in the first place. Law professors--if you assign this book, expect your students to be wildly confused unless they purchase Chemerinsky's supplement and read it in place of this one.