Saving the Constitution from Lawyers: How Legal Training and Law Reviews Distort Constitutional Meaning 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0521721721
ISBN-10: 0521721725
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Fair, fearless, and ferocious, Bob Spitzer has done it again. In Saving the Constitution from Lawyers, he dissects law journals run by law students - and demolishes their one-sided and poorly supported briefs for the line-item veto, the unitary theory of the executive, and the right to bear arms."
--Glenn Altschuler, Litwin Professor and Dean, Cornell University


"No one will read law review articles in the same way after reading Spitzer. Let's hope that no one will write them in the same way either. This book is a tour de force, and should be required reading for every law student, legal scholar, and student of constitutional and public law."
--Richard M. Pious, Adolph and Effie Ochs Professor, Department of Political Science, Barnard College Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University


"In this compelling and erudite work, Robert Spitzer skewers the legal profession and legal (mis) education with skill, wit and elegance. This brilliant and insightful indictment of the profession is a clarion call for citizens to recapture the essence of the Constitution that has been lost, stolen and perverted by so-called "legal authorities". Spitzer asks us to be wary of constitutional interpretation as filtered through the decidedly unbalanced lens of a profession accustomed to adversarial advocacy as opposed to a systematic search for truth. This book is certain to give the legal profession a first-rate headache."
--Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Chair of Leadership, Loyola Marymount
University, Author of Memo to a New President



"American law schools are filled with smart students and even smarter scholars. Yet it is hardly a secret that the basic medium of scholarly discourse--the law review--repeatedly trades in a debased currency, in part because scholars over-argue like the future lawyers they are training, and in part because their students lack the intellectual credentials to evaluate legal scholarship. Nowhere is the gap between pretension and performance more evident than in the realm of constitutional law, and Robert Spitzer explains why."
--Jack Rakove, W. R. Coe Professor of History and American Studies & Professor of Political Science, Stanford University, Pulitzer Prize for Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution


"Spitzer's critique of law reviews is balanced by his respect for lawyers, their function in the American system of justice, and his reverence for the Constitution. But just as valuable as his analysis of the systemic problems with law journals is his impressive, scholarly analysis of three major contemporary constitutional issues: the item veto, the Second Amendment, and the "unitary executive" theory. Spitzer's book will be controversial, but his constitutional analysis will remain valuable to everyone who wants to understand these important Constitutional issues."
--James Pfiffner, Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University


"I devoted the Labor Day weekend to reading Saving the Constitution from Lawyers. It was time well spent. I have no serious disagreement with anything in the book. ...thesis is sound, ...proof for it is overwhelming. I agree that all who write for law reviews, whether students, faculty members, or others, should possess the skills of scholarship and ideally formal training in scholarship. ...I hope the book is taken seriously by law school deans and faculty members, judges, lawyers, and constitutional scholars generally. It is an important and timely work."
--David Danelski, Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University


"The dominant theme of this little book is that law school law review journals have a publishing process that sometimes results in judges and justices misinterpreting the Constitution....Recommended."
--D. S. Mann, College of Charleston, CHOICE


"...Spitzer has staked out his position in these fascinating debates, revealing for us how political movements throw off generations of precedent and historical meaning and take on a new cloak of constitutional authority."
--Patrick Schmidt, Department of Political Science, Macalester College, The Law and Politics Book Review


"...In Saving the Constitution from Lawyers, political scientist Robert J. Spitzer presents a sharp critique of the "wayward constitutional theorizing" (p. 177) published in law journals...Professor Spitzer contributes detailed case studies showing that a lack of rigor in law schools turned laughably bad arguments into law - "and no one is laughing now" (p. 128)."
--HARVARD LAW REVIEW [Vol. 122:1279]

Book Description

This sweeping indictment of the legal profession's forays into constitutional theorizing argues that legal training and writing are ill suited to scholarly analysis of critical constitutional issues. Through careful examination of legal principles and the law's vast student-run publishing venue - law reviews - Spitzer concludes that wayward constitutional theorizing is too often the result.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (April 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521721725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521721721
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,716,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert J. Spitzer is Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the State University of New York, College at Cortland, where he has taught for over thirty years. He has also been a visiting professor at Cornell University for over twenty years. Spitzer is Series Editor for the book series "American Constitutionalism" for SUNY Press. He's received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship, and served as President of the Presidency Research Group, an international association of presidency scholars (affiliated with the American Political Science Association). He has testified before Congress on several occasions, and is often quoted and interviewed by American and international news outlets, and writes regularly for the Huffington Post. He earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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In this book, Robert J. Spitzer tackles a genuinely troubling issue: The Constitution is interpreted every day to mean things that never occurred to the Founders, and is often applied in ways that seem inconsistent with, or even contrary to, the concerns that prompted the drafting of the document in the first place. The author, a political scientist, recognizes that the Constitution’s meaning has been distorted through what might broadly be termed the legal process. His identification of the specific agents of this distortion, however, seems oddly off-target.

First, Spitzer zeros in on the nation’s law schools, which unabashedly prepare their students to be advocates, rather than scholars. Indeed they do. But weren’t the majority of the Founders lawyers, who earned their living by zealously advancing their clients’ interests, rather than conducting dispassionate and objective investigations to determine where the truth, in a particular case, might lie? Granted, it may not require an intellect of the first order to be an advocate, but surely the two qualities are not mutually exclusive.

Second, Spitzer lambastes the publication of legal scholarship by student-edited law reviews. Again, there is much merit to his critique. In no other academic discipline do professors allow their scholarly papers to be edited and published by second- and third-year students. And undoubtedly, a great deal of drek winds up being printed in law reviews as a consequence, that should never have seen the light of day. Still, Spitzer doesn’t really show a plausible connection between the publication of dubious legal scholarship and the erosion of the Constitution’s original meaning.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Hollywood Gourmand on May 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Interesting critique of the often 'shaky' nature of law journal
scholarship and writing, spotlighting topics that have been embraced
by the political Right. Someone with comparable gravitas should
be inspired to use Spitzer's engaging format to expose the glut
of Progressive overreaching that crowds these journals as well.
His section debunking the "individualist" interpretation of the
2nd Amendment is the main flaw here, and displays a tendency toward
the kind of dismissive, politically-biased scholarship that he opposes so
successfully elsewhere in this work (and robs this review of two stars).
I need to go back and check just how many of the "collectivist school"
Second Amendment law journal articles cited were actually bankrolled
by the Joyce Foundation and other gun control advocacy groups.
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