Over the last few decades, the Supreme Court and the federal appellate courts have undergone a dramatic shift to the right, the result of a determined effort by right-wing lawmakers and presidents to reinterpret the Constitution by reshaping the judiciary. Conservative activist justices have narrowed the scope of the Constitution, denying its protections to millions of Americans, exactly as the lawmakers who appointed and confirmed these jurists intended. Basic long-standing principles of constitutional law have been overturned by the Rehnquist and Roberts courts. As distinguished law professor and constitutional expert Erwin Chemerinsky demonstrates in this invaluable book, these changes affect the lives of every American.
As a result of political pressure from conservatives and a series of Supreme Court decisions, our public schools are increasingly separate and unequal, to the great disadvantage of poor and minority students. Right-wing politicians and justices are dismantling the wall separating church and state, allowing ever greater government support for religion. With the blessing of the Supreme Court, absurdly harsh sentences are being handed down to criminal defendants, such as life sentences for shoplifting and other petty offenses. Even in death penalty cases, defendants are being denied the right to competent counsel at trial, and as a result innocent people have been convicted and sentenced to death. Right-wing politicians complain that government is too big and intrusive while at the same time they are only too happy to insert the government into the most intimate aspects of the private lives of citizens when doing so conforms to conservative morality. Conservative activist judges say that the Constitution gives people an inherent right to own firearms but not to make their own medical decisions. In some states it is easier to buy an assault rifle than to obtain an abortion.
Nowhere has the conservative assault on the Constitution been more visible or more successful than in redefining the role of the president. From Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, conservatives have sought to significantly increase presidential power. The result in recent years has been unprecedented abuses, including indefinite detentions, illegal surveillance, and torture of innocent people.
Finally, access to the courts is being restricted by new rulings that deny legal protections to ordinary Americans. Fewer lawsuits alleging discrimination in employment are heard; fewer people are able to sue corporations or governments for injuries they have suffered; and even when these cases do go to trial, new restrictions limit damages that plaintiffs can collect.
The first step in reclaiming the protections of the Constitution, says Chemerinsky, is to recognize that right-wing justices are imposing their personal prejudices, not making neutral decisions about the scope of the Constitution, as they claim, or following the "original meaning" of the Constitution. Only then do we stand a chance of reclaiming our constitutional liberties from a rigid ideological campaign that has transformed our courts and our laws. Only then can we return to a constitutional law that advances freedom and equality.
Chemerinsky, a leading constitutional scholar, offers an impassioned critique of current Supreme Court jurisprudence, which in his view has turned in a radically conservative direction that misperceives the role of the Court within our political system by exercising too much power in the development of public policy and betrays the Founder's Constitutional protections, such as the right to a fair trial. Chemerinsky depicts the rhetoric spread across recent Republican presidencies, which fueled political support for a conservative federal judiciary. With examples of the current Court's expanding conservative stamp on questions of education, expanding presidential power, infringing on the separation of church and state as well as individual and criminal rights, he asserts that the five-Justice conservative majority has systematically distorted our constitutional landscape with their overly conservative rulings. He remains optimistic, however, about the ultimate direction of the Court and suggests strategies to reverse the trend, like undertaking a concerted effort to debunk the fiction that conservative judges are not "activist." For support, he looks to the infamous Supreme Court opinion Bush v. Gore, which he claims demonstrates the hypocrisy of "the conservative rhetoric about judicial restraint." Conservative readers will be incensed by his critique of the Court, and liberals may take heart in his sense that there will be another day.
Informative, succinct and worth every penny!
I cannot stress how much this book opens your eyes to very blatant, yet under-reported issues that are happening in law.
Absolutely keeps your attention through each chapter. Importantly, he provides detailed evidence for his theories and suggests important steps for changing our government for the better.
I would go so far as to say it's imperative for all Americans to read this book and learn from the issues he presents, not just those in law school.
Please purchase and read!
This book is full of lies. Just like the government.
Chemerinsky is simply a genius. I recently heard him speak at a conference in my law school regarding the present state of constitutional rights in the U.S. and I am still in awe. It was so enlightening and exciting, I just had to buy this book. More people in the U.S. should think like this man. Americans should realize that conservative interests and activism have placed constitutional/civil rights and liberties on a slippery slope.