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The Conservative Assault on the Constitution Hardcover – September 28, 2010
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“Erwin Chemerinsky knows the Constitution as a legal scholar and the Supreme Court as a lawyer who represents clients there. It’s a rare and powerful combination that makes him uniquely qualified to write this disturbing and persuasive book about the impact of the current Supreme Court’s approach to constitutional interpretation.”
—Linda Greenhouse, Lecturer, Yale Law School; former New York Times Supreme Court correspondent
"Our Constitution depends on the courts to keep it alive; we all depend on Erwin Chemerinsky to remind us why that is so important. This book is essential reading for anyone who cares about preserving our constitutional birthright."
—Susan N. Herman, President, American Civil Liberties Union
About the Author
Erwin Chemerinsky is the founding dean of the University of California Irvine Law School. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and Harvard Law School. After teaching law at DePaul College of Law, he moved to the University of Southern California, where he taught from 1983 to 2004. He frequently argued cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals in various jurisdictions and occasionally before the U.S. Supreme Court. He is well known in Los Angeles, where he helped draft a new city charter (he chaired the charter commission), issued a report on the city's police department, and commented on the O.J. Simpson trial. From 2004 to 2008 he taught at Duke University School of Law, before returning to southern California to start the law school at UCI.
He is the author of Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies, a widely used law school textbook.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Conservative Assault on the Constitution is a must read book for anyone who cares about the application of the Constitution. Distinguished law professor and constitutional expert Erwin Chemerinsky takes us through the most interesting legal issues of our time and the impact that the composition of the Supreme Court has on such legal decisions. Fascinating book indeed even to a person like me who is most inclined to reading books about science or religion. The book is composed of the following six chapters: Separate and Unequal Schools, The Imperious Presidency, Dismantling the Wall Separating Church and State, The Vanishing Rights of Criminal Defendants, The Erosion of Individual Liberties and the Closing of the Courthouse Doors. It also includes a conclusion and an incisive introduction.
1. A well written, clearly laid out book that shows how Supreme Court decisions impact our lives.
2. Constitutional law in plain English by a distinguished lawyer.
3. This book was a treat to read from cover to cover.
4. Every conceivable important legal issue was covered in this book.
5. One of the most important decisions a President has to make is the appointment of Supreme Court Judges. A point that is clearly made with luxury of details. As an example, President Nixon had four vacancies to fill by contrast President Carter had none. Such decisions leave a permanent mark in our history.
6. Great history on the selection of various Judges and how their voting record actually turned out versus the original perception. Examples of the aforementioned include Justices Souter and O'Connor.
7. A great lesson on how our schools are in fact separate and unequal.
8. My favorite chapter has to do with the dismantling of the wall of separation of Church and State. Justice Souter stated "compelling an individual to support religion violates the fundamental principal of freedom of conscience".
9. Great supporting information abound to support the author's key points. Many great links to studies.
10. So many great issues discussed: three strikes, assisted death, abortion, criminal rights, personal injuries, individual liberties, etc...
11. Interesting and fascinating tidbits about some of the Justices and their voting history. As an example, Justice Thomas may well in fact be the most conservative Justice of the Supreme Court.
12. One of the most eye-opening books that clearly demonstrates a direct correlation with our lives.
1. Conservatives are most likely not inclined to read this book but should.
2. I would have liked to have seen illustrations showing the composition of the courts over the years (eras if you will) and voting records on the most important issues. As an example, we know that the Warren Court was a liberal court and I would have liked the composition of that court and a summary of most important cases. It would have certainly have enhanced this great book.
3. Having to wait for Mr. Chemerinsky's next book.
In summary, a fascinating book that focuses on how conservative Justices have assaulted our Constitution. An eloquently written book that conveys profound legal concepts for the masses, an accomplishment indeed. I want to thank Mr. Chemerinsky for making this book accessible and interesting. I can't recommend this book enough. Bravo!
I believe the most important aspect of the book is how clearly Chemerinsky is able to demonstrate that there really is no one way interpret the Constitution. Put on talk radio today and you are sure to hear something like "if you believe in the Constitution, we have to do x y z." But a belief in the Constitution does not dictate obvious policy choices. Instead, the Constitution is written in often vague and broad language that does not answer a specific fact scenario. For example, the First Amendment does not mention anything about prayer in schools, but mentions that government should not establish religion. The Supreme Court decides whether or not the establishment clause prohibits prayer in schools, and really the answer is not obvious. Many of the most important Supreme Court decisions are decided by a 5-4 vote. This means that 4 of the most educated, intelligent, and informed legal minds in the country, obviously experts on Constitutional law, thought the other 5 justices were misinterpreting the Constitution. But from that moment on, the 5 Justices have the correct interpretation, and the 4 Justices the incorrect.
Constitutional law greatly impacts our lives. It dictates how schools are taught, what the police can and cannot search, the rights of criminal defendants, whether or not a woman can receive an abortion and under what circumstances, etc. You will enjoy this book if you are interested to learn about how the Supreme Court develops the law and how conservative policies are shaping the meaning of the Constitution.
That's just one example. He takes separation of church and state, habeas corpus rights and personal privacy and gives a historical account of each, showing how the increasingly conservative court, while decrying "judicial activism," has actually been consistently activist on issues that involved conservative ideology, overturning previous decisions with abandon, while claiming smugly that they are respectful of previous decisions.
The most damning point he makes is the two-faced posture of the Gang of Four(Scalia, Roberts, Alito and Thomas). On the one hand they pretend to be strict constructionists, limiting individual's rights to those explicitly enumerated in the Constitution and its amendments. For example, they ruled against a victim of police negligence whose children were murdered by an ex-spouse after she asked for protection and the cops didn't bother to take any action, saying that the Constitution does not guarantee police competence (or words to that effect) but they were adamant in the recent ruling that corporations have the rights of individuals as far as campaign spending is concerned...clearly not a "right" explicitly granted in the Constitution. Ideology trumps principles with these guys. Real hypocrites!
This is a very dense book, and the reader must have an interest in the details of case law and legal precedents to stay with it. I recommend it highly to anyone with those interests.