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Originalism: A Quarter-Century of Debate Hardcover – August 21, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

What did the Constitution mean at the time it was adopted? How should we interpret today the words used by the Founding Fathers? In ORIGINALISM: A QUARTER-CENTURY OF DEBATE, these questions are explained and dissected by the very people who continue to shape the legal structure of our country. Inside you'll find:

*A foreword by Justice Antonin Scalia and speeches by former attorney general Edwin Meese III, Justice William Brennan, Judge Robert H. Bork, and President Ronald Reagan *Transcripts from panel discussions and debates engaging some of the brightest legal minds of our time in frank, open discussions about the original meaning of the Constitution of the United States and its impact on the rule of law in our country *A debate on the original meaning of the Commerce, Spending, and Necessary and Proper Clauses *Concluding thoughts by Theodore Olson, forty-second solicitor general of the United States and a fellow at both the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers. ORIGINALISM: A QUARTER-CENTURY OF DEBATE is a lively and fascinating discussion of an issue that has occupied the greatest legal minds in America, and one that continues to elicit strong reactions from both those who support and those who oppose the rule of law. Steven G. Calabresi, co-founder of the Federalist Society and professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law, has compiled an impressive collection of speeches, panel discussions, and debates from some of the greatest and most prominent legal experts of the last twenty-five years.

About the Author

STEVEN G. CALABRESI is a co-founder of the Federalist Society, chairman of the Society's Board of Directors, and professor of law at Northwestern University. His published work has appeared in all the major law reviews and addresses such subjects as presidential powers, federalism, the separation of powers, federal jurisdiction, and comparative constitutional law. Professor Calabresi lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with his wife Mimi and their four children.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery Publishing (August 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596980508
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596980501
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Saikrishna B. Prakash on November 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Steven Calabresi and The Federalist Society have done us a service by publishing this volume of speeches. Part I has major speeches by Attorney General Meese, Justice Brennan, President Reagan, and Judge Bork, all of which discuss the role that the Constitution's original meaning ought to play in determining the Constitution's meaning today. These speeches are among the most famous constitutional law speeches of recent time because they discuss constitutional law in sophisticated yet easily accessible terms.

Part II has several chapters on various subject matters : unenumerated constitutional rights, pragmatism, precedent, and the Commerce Clause. It also has a debate between Professor Cass Sunstein and Charles Cooper. These chapters provide a window into debates amongst originalists about the Constitution's original meaning. What role should precedent play in an originalist analysis of constitutional meaning? Was the original understanding of the commerce clause far narrower than the test found in contemporary Supreme Court cases? As these later chapters make clear, although originalists often promise certainty as an antidote to judicial lawmaking, the original meaning of constitutional phrases and concepts is the subject of much debate amongst originalists. Though originalists generally agree on methodology, they often will have sharp disagreements about the constitution's original meaning.

The book seems ideal for classroom use, for those looking for an introduction to constitutional originalism, and for those looking for a single volume that covers much (but not all) of the debate about the merits of originalism. While most of the book favors originalism, the book does offer space to its critics as well.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I found this to be a very valuable book to read. Anyone who dismisses the book because it is published by Regnery or is a product of the Federalist Society is being foolish and cheating himself of a valuable debate on Originalism. Frankly, everyone should read this book carefully.

The book begins with an introductory paper by the Federalist Society's founder, Steven Calabresi and provides background for all the articles in the book and some of his own thoughts on Originalism. There is also a very brief forward by Justice Antonin Scalia. The core of the book is a series of speeches and panel discussions on key issues of Originalism that were kicked off decades back when then Attorney General Edwin Meese III gave a speech on the subject before the American Bar Association on July 9, 1985. However, the speech might have drifted into the mists of history but for the countering speech given by Justice William Brennan, Jr. at Georgetown University on October 12, 1985. Ed Meese replied on November 15, 1985 before the Federalist Society.

The rest of Part I provides important speeches on Originalism and the Constitution by Robert Bork, President Ronald Reagan (when swearing in Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia) and another speech by Ed Meese from 1986.

Part II consists of five panel discussions (strangely, without their dates). The first is on "Originalism and Unenumerated Constitutional Rights" with Professor Suzanna Sherry, Professor Walter Dellinger, Professor John Harrison, Professor Lino Graglia, and Judge Michael McConnell. Each participant gives some remarks and then the panel discussion was moderated by Diane Wood.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Donald E. Oliver on December 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been a lawyer in California and Oregon for thirty years and this is the first time I have read a series of debates that clarify the real issues we face in interpreting the United States Constitution. While the Supreme Court has been going the right way (Heller, McDonald v. Chicago) the current administration and the left would ignore and even destroy the Constitution our alleged leaders have sworn to defend.

This book is a little deep given that it is about serious legal scholarship but it is worth it.
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By Walter Sobchak on July 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Great book! Highly recommend to anyone interested in Con Law, conservative or liberal. Very well written, very fair and open.
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13 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z on May 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In spite of the outwardly partial banner on the book cover - "25th Anniversary of the Federalist Society" and with its president, Steven Calabresi editing it, as well as having a foreward by the current self-anointed leader of originalism on the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia, "Originalism: A Quarter Century of Debate" is a useful book; it presents the case for originalism at its best, and was written by some of its staunchest supporters. More importantly, in keeping with the slightly misleading format of a "debate", it also has the views of opponents of originalism. It is slightly misleading because the case for originalism is cast in stronger light mainly by depriving the reader of some of the clearer and stronger views in opposition. However, this is not to say that originalism is a weaker or inferior principle to purposive interpretation, or vice versa. The reader will be enriched by this book, but he should probe beyond what the proponents are arguing here. Posner might not be the most popular judge or writer, and his views might have been unfairly dismissed in this book, but he has strong forceful points that should be considered. So too, Justice Breyer, whose judicial attitude to constitutional interpretation is sharply expressed in his book, "Active Interpretation". Ultimately, the reader should ask himself whether words of the past, however wise, are utterly unalterable and we must continue to apply the same meaning to them as they first bore, notwithstanding that time might have changed the context such that the meaning of those words ought also to change. This is the crux of the debate. It is certainly worth asking whether words crafted in the distant past are no longer capable of bearing their original meaning, and must be interpreted afresh to keep them alive. In the process, we should be mindful not to "assume the familiar to be necessary" (Justice Brandeis).
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