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Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution Hardcover – Large Print, April 22, 2014

3.9 out of 5 stars 130 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

PRAISE FOR THE FIVE CHIEFS:

"Informative and very appealing....It's classic justice Stevens: understated and generous to those he differs with, but absolutely clear on where he believes justice lies."
--- Adam Cohen, Time

"Laced with observations on the court's architecture, traditions and even its seating arrangements, it is the collected ruminations of a man who has served his country in war and peace, across the decades... His memoir is as gracious as its author and a reminder that Stevens is more than a longtime member of the nation's highest court. He is a national treasure."
--- Jim Newton, Los Angeles Times

"An important addition to American history....At its core, the book is not just another memoir from yet another judge. It marks instead the end of an era on the Supreme Court and in the broader swath of American law and politics."
--- Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic

"Coming from the last of a dying breed of jurists who genuinely believe you can learn something from everyone if you just listen hard enough, it is a lesson in how, at the Supreme Court, civility and cordiality matter more, even, than doctrine."
--- Dahlia Lithwick, Washington Post --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

About the Author

John Paul Stevens served as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit from 1970-1975. President Ford nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and he took his seat December 19, 1975. Justice Stevens retired from the Supreme Court on June 29, 2010. He has written for the New York Review of Books and is the author of Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Lrg edition (April 22, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031633376X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316333764
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,486,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Springer on April 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In the wake of the unprecedented level of gerrymandering that followed the 2010 elections, as well as the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act and campaign finance laws, it has become very clear that a constitutional amendment may be required in order to preserve the right to vote in this country. While I have not read Stevens' previous book, I've heard good things about his writing, so I've been looking forward to reading his latest offering. It was announced early on that he would take on the second amendment, which guaranteed that the book would be controversial, but I was more interested in the other five amendments he intended to offer. Although Stevens spent nearly 35 years on the high court, he seems to feel that it has taken on excessive power, and here he advocates returning power to the people's representatives in Congress.

After a quick review of the successful amendments thus far, Stevens proceeds to a discussion of the Supremacy Clause and whether the federal government can compel state officials to enforce federal law, given that the language specifically calls out judges ("and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby"); he recommends adding the words "and other public officials", with the reasoning that often state officials are in the best position to enforce federal law. Stevens clearly considers this to be a clarification rather than a change, but one which would overturn past rulings of the court.

The second chapter moves on to what I would consider one of the greatest threats to democracy: political gerrymandering.
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Format: Hardcover
It is spring and proposed constitutional amendments are in the air. One thoughtful group has come from conservative commentator Mark Levin in his interesting "The Liberty Amendments." Now retired Justice John Paul Stevens has offered his own menu of six amendments in this volume. As regards the general reader, some chapters will interest many; other chapters deal with areas that may be overwhelmingly technical or simply less interesting. In any regard, Justice Stevens offers some fresh ideas and proposals that bear serious consideration. The book follows a uniform methodology: Justice Stevens first outlines a problem he sees in the present constitutional structure and then articulates how he would amend the document to correct that problem. I think this approach works well and is easy to follow.

After a prologue which is a quick run through the present lineup of constitutional amendments, Stevens in the initial chapter turns to the "anti-commandeering rule." The supremacy clause of the Constitution (Art. VI, Cl. 2) imposed a duty on state judges to implement and apply federal law as superior to state law. Recently, the issue has arisen whether state officials in addition to judges can be required to implement federal law. The background-checking provisions of gun-control legislation is a prime example. Recent Supreme Courts have imposed an area of state immunity from federal statutes, arguing that the supremacy clause only specifies judges are bound by it. Justice Stevens thinks this approach is inappropriate and would modify the clause to include all "public officials." The only problem with this chapter is that it throws a lot of case law at the reader, since many of the problems Stevens sees are the result of Supreme Court decisions.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is exactly as it is described on the cover. Written by retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who certainly understands this subject, and is described by others as a man of great intellect and integrity. The purpose of most of these six proposed amendments is (he says) to get the understanding of the constitution back to what it originally was (regarding these issues), rather than to change its meaning. Two of the six amendments, I think, would have very broad support among the general public (on gerrymandering and campaign finance). Two would baffle the general public (on sovereign immunity and the anti-commandeering rule). Two are on very controversial issues (the death penalty and gun control). I am not an expert on constitution or law, so I can't 100% say how solid his logic and facts are, but these are great places to start to find out what the people of the United States really want. Please note that this book is not written exclusively for experts, but it is also not an easy read.
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By pnc on November 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great book in terms of analyzing where our government and court system have gone wrong. It is unlikely that many (any?) of the proposed amendments will be enacted, but nonetheless Judge Stevens nails the problems, their history, the legislation from the bench of the Roberts court. Conservatives and "a gun for all seasons" advocates may hate it. As a liberal who believes we are witnessing a politicized shift to the right of our Supreme Court, based not on law but on politics, I loved it.
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