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Institutions of American Democracy: The Judicial Branch Paperback – January 26, 2006
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In this ambitious volume (one of several in the "Institutions of American Democracy Series;) the editors paint a sweeping panorama of the relationship between The Law and Society. In a series of essays, experts examine the historical basis of our Laws; the role of the Judiciary (state and Federal); the relevance of various Supreme Court Decision (Marbury V. Madison), Dredd Scott V. Sanford; Brown v. Kansas City, and the evolution of the Constitution.
Especially in a period of social unrest and threats to national security, several basic premises of law are being re-defined. Among them:
Search and Seizure: The Fourth Amendment limits the power of the state to make "Unreason able" searches of homes, but is being challenged by Warantless Searches and electronic evesdropping.
Eminent Domain: The right of the State to expropriate private property for the public good (but to whose benefit?) "Kelo V. New London," Scotus, 2005)
Posse Comitatus: The limitation of powers of law enforcement on the Military during peacetime.
Right to Confront one's Accusers, and to have a public trial . The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court:
. The F.I.S.A (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) provides for a separate "in Camera" panel which meets in secret, keeps no public records, and in fact doesn't even acknowledge its own existence. In the Middle Ages, this was called "The Court of Star Chamber" and was one of the reasons the framers of our constitution went to particular lengths to guarantee "speedy and public" trials; the right to confront one's witnesses, and judicial review.Read more ›
The essays that comprise the volume are both scholarly and focused, without being elitist or written beyond the scope of the average American reader. Given the typical American's understanding of the Judicial Branch, it is certainly very telling that the shortest essay/chapter is titled "What Americans Know About the Court and why it Matters."
Each of the book's nineteen essays cover various modern and historical concerns with the Judiciary. While invariably the writers of each chapter are notable experts in their respective fields, some readers will undoubtedly take issue with the authors' frequent discussions about judicial activism and other hot-button topics.
There is certainly no doubt that most judicial "activism" in the past has served the greater good for the average citizen. The book serves to cement this reality through repeated analysis of the court's activist decisions, good and bad. Several cases are cited, some to exhaustion, but the writing suffers little from this repetition.
Sue Davis's chapter on discrimination and the Judiciary's role in equality is well founded with respect to voter initiatives and the potential for a tyranny of the majority, but misses the mark on disenfranchisement of certain potential voting publics. Davis fails to understand the fundamental fact that illegal Mexican immigrants in the U.S. do indeed have voting rights, in Mexico. To suggest that the American system of disenfranchising them is racially motivated is unfortunate. This rejects the fact that illegal immigrants have forsaken the same U.S.Read more ›