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Constitutional Law Stories

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1587785054
ISBN-10: 1587785056
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Professor of Law, Columbia Law School

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Product Details

  • Series: Stories
  • Paperback: 540 pages
  • Publisher: Foundation Pr (January 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587785056
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587785054
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Ronald K. Collins on April 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a splendid collection of 15 narratives concerning historically significant cases. "Constitutional Law Stories" brings the Constitution out of the graveyards in its telling of seminal Supreme Court cases, old and new, related to structural principles, egalitarian principles, and liberty principles. The narrative approach, combined with clear and skillful analysis, goes a long way in providing students with a fuller and richer portrait of American law as lived and litigated. Some of the stories involve the "chestnut" cases, e.g., Marbury, Dred Scott, Lochner, and Roe v. Wade. Others are important but typically receive far less narrative attention - e.g., Whitney, Employment Div. v. Smith and City of Boerne v. Flores (re the "inter-connection of structure and rights"). As with any such selection, one can quibble about why this or that case is missing - e.g., Brown v. Board, Nixon v. U.S., Adamson. v. California, Craig v. Boren, NYT v. Sullivan, Everson v. Board of Education, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, Flast v. Cohen, and Bush v. Gore, among other cases. Some of these cases are, of course, examined in related cases discussed by the contributors (who are an impressive lot). Editor Michael Dorf, of Columbia University Law School, makes a good case in his thoughtful introduction why certain cases are "in" and others "out." Moreover Professor Dorf adds a welcome touch of realism when he writes: "By including a fair number of poorly reasoned or morally obtuse decisions in this book I aim to combat a common impulse among both students and scholars of constitutional law - the tendency to treat the story of American constitutionalism as the unfolding of manifest destiny of the ideals announced in the Declaration of Independence and inscribed in the Constitution.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This book tells the histories of fifteen constitutional cases in areas such as free speech, equal protection, and federalism. The writing is reader-friendly (at least for academic writing); the chapters are packed with interesting historical details that help to make the legal issues come alive; and the authors (almost all of whom are law professors) were selected from all points of the political spectrum. Although there is enough legal analysis for readers to grasp the legal significance of each case, the writers generally avoid arcane doctrinal exegesis.

The reader should know, however, that the fifteen separate chapters do not add up to an overview of constitutional history or current constitutional law. In fact, several chapters deal with cases that are usually cited today as paradigms of BAD constitutional law (Plessy v. Ferguson and Lochner v. New York). The chapters are also of mixed quality. Some are outstanding (such as the ones on McCullough v. Maryland or the Oregon peyote case). Others, however, deal with ephemeral cases (such as Jones v. Clinton); at least one (on Roe v. Wade) is laughably one-sided; and one (on Dred Scott) seems more focused on attacking Robert Bork than on analyzing the details of the case (Bork is an easy target but he didn't need to figure so prominently in the discussion of a 19th century case).

With these caveats, I'd recommend the book to anyone interested in American constitutional law or history.
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By EHC on January 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book came to my door as quickly as was promised, which is important for textbooks. When it got here, it was in perfect condition. The ease of the transaction made me, as a customer, very, very happy.
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