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The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom Hardcover – May 1, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1595230508 ISBN-10: 1595230505 Edition: First

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sentinel HC; First edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595230505
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595230508
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,342,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cato Institute senior fellow Levy and lawyer Mellor, in this excellent examination of twelve far-reaching Supreme Court cases and their consequences, force readers to question the direction in which the judiciary has led our country over the past century-and possibly their own attitudes toward the federal government. The authors deftly navigate the complicated proceedings without slipping into lawyer-speak, while unapologetically leaning on their libertarian sentiments to color their commentary and analysis. Though the writers defend well their claim that the dozen cases under discussion-with a number of "dishonorable mentions" and an appendix each for Roe v. Wade and Bush v. Gore-have expanded the federal government and eroded civil liberties, one can't help but feel a creeping sense of arrogance when Levy and Mellor assert repeatedly that they know how the Constitution's authors would view the document were they alive today. Still, the authors' canny investigation into the Supreme Court should call into doubt some of the staid political viewpoints readers may have taken too long for granted.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Many of the most harmful decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court have been subject to sustained attack in separate places. But I am not aware of any volume whose major function is to critique the worst in one place. Into this void step two fearless writers,Bob Levy and Chip Mellor, who through their work have been deeply involved in shaping our legal and political culture. (From the Foreword by Richard A. Epstein, Professor of Law, University of Chicago )

A passionate, thoughtful, provocative, and eminently readable book by two of America's most influential libertarian lawyers and legal thinkers. (Eugene Volokh, Professor of Law, UCLA; Founder of the Volokh Conspiracy Blog )

An easy read, and a very informative primer on some long-neglected cases. |fLyle Denniston, Scotus Blog

Levy and Mellor offer fascinating insights on twelve of the most important and controversial cases of our time. Readers will gain new appreciation for the Supreme Court's role in affecting their lives and liberties. With that appreciation will come heightened understanding of the stakes in future Supreme Court nominations. (Nadine Strossen, Former President, American Civil Liberties Union ) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

This book is an easy read for lawyers who are likely already aware of many of the cases.
The Stranger
This is a wonderful book and should be required reading for all law students when they are taking Constitutional Law class.
Mary Ann J
I suspect that after reading it, you - like me - will be suggesting to everyone you know that they read it too.
Jerry Saperstein

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 85 people found the following review helpful By The Stranger on May 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When reviewing Epstein's "How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution" I griped that he failed to use the "treasure trove" of case law available to support his argument. Well Levy and Mellor have found it and put it all on display! I was immediately intrigued when I saw the title. What twelve cases would they pick? The title, however, is a tad misleading. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this book is much more than just twelve bad cases. Sure, you get twelve cases and the facts and issues involved but there's a lot more.

Liberties aren't destroyed overnight. Levy and Mellor recognize this by breaking the book up into chapters focusing on specific freedoms or clauses in the constitution rather than solely one case. They masterfully focus on one case in each area while also recognizing (through "dishonorable mentions") the precedent that lead to each of the Dirty Dozen. They also detail the repercussions and cases that followed. The effect is that they manage to take a premise, twelve distinct and often unrelated cases, and construct a comprehensive argument for the Court's responsibility in the expansion of our government and erosion of our liberties.

This book is an easy read for lawyers who are likely already aware of many of the cases. One of the many successes of this book, however, is its clear enunciation of the issues for those without a legal background. The authors spare no one, regardless of political affiliation, in their analysis of the cases. This is a perfect explanation of the damage the Supreme Court has done to our constitutional form of government in the last century.
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Format: Hardcover
"Regrettably, the [Supreme] court has too often taken the plain wording of the Constitution and interpreted it to mean exactly the opposite of what the Founding Fathers intended. By that process the Court profoundly altered the American legal, political, and economic landscape."

So begins Richard Epstein's forward to this truly remarkable book.

The authors, Robert Levy, of the Cato Institute, and William Mellor, of the Institute of Justice, have chosen twelve Supreme Court cases they believe "changed the course of American history".

The book is not written solely for lawyers. In fact, it is written for the citizen concerned with the expansion of government at the expense of individual freedom.

The tragedy of this book is that it will be read by so few people when it should be read by every citizen, regardless of political persuasion, who is concerned the fate of the United States.

These twelve cases are considered by the authors to be the worst decisions of the Supreme Court of the modern era. In most cases, they also list a runner-up. Events move quickly, so it is quite likely that the authors would add Boumedienne v. Bush, the incredible decision that grants a variety of rights to terrorists. Personally I think that Boumedienne will vie with Dredd Scott as being the most lunkheaded decision ever made by the Court. U.S. v. Miller, 1939 case about the Second Amendment, has been resolved by the very recent decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. (One can see how endangered the Constitution is by the 5-4 vote of the Court in Heller.)

The authors (unsurprisingly) relate each of the cases to a specific topic.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Comroe on May 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The title is misleading. It's not about 12 cases, it's about 12 topics of constitutional abuse, each topic being carefully crafted to teach an abused section of the constitution, along with how that section of the constitution has been abused, complete with the landmark cases: what they were, how they were decided, and how the Supreme Court err'ed on each.

As such it's a wonderfully informative book teaching a broad scope of Supreme Court sanctioned constitutional abuse. I found it well written, immensely entertaining, and comprehensive in both its structure and coverage. I couldn't put the book down til reaching the end.
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Format: Hardcover
I believe you and every American interested in our freedoms and the Supreme Court should read this book. The authors, Robert Levy and William Mellor, pick 12 Supreme Court cases they believe were poorly decided and had detrimental consequences to our society. Each of these cases is given its own chapter and often includes another case as a "dishonorable mention" that they may also reference.

Now, we are far too deferential to the Supreme Court and even the Federal Courts. We allow them to "correct society" through rulings that are really super-legislation. This is not in the Constitution and is bad for our society. It allows the legislative branch to avoid its responsibilities, and plants undemocratic sentiments in the hearts and minds of the citizenry. But this is my point of view.

Richard Epstein gives a very nice introduction and goes over his views on the cases selected. While he mostly agrees with the authors, he offers up some disagreements and explains why. This helps the reader start his or her critical thinking as they work through the book. Yes, it is written for the general public, but it is reading you will want to read and argue with in your own mind to come to your own conclusions.

The book is in two parts. The first talks about cases that have led to the expansion of government. Chapter 1 uses Helvering v Davis (1937) and U.S. v Butler (1936) to discuss the misuse of the general welfare clause. Chapter 2 uses Wickard v. Filburn (1942) and Gonzales v. Raich (2005) to demonstrate the abuse of the clause about regulating interstate commerce. Chapter 3 looks at rescinding private contracts with the 1934 case Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell and the 1935 case Gold Clause Cases.
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