Can Congress impose limits to free speech on the Internet? May a doctor or a family member assist a terminally-ill patient to commit suicide? Is it constitutional for a government agency to give preferences to minorities in awarding federal contracts?
Covers various Americans' right to the free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, discrimination and defendant's rights.
Blending historical concerns of constitutional law and civil liberties with the theoretical and empirical issues of modern political science, Epstein (political science, Washington U.) and Walker (political science, Emory U.) survey what has been wrought in the name of the Constitution<-->including the present debate over Internet privacy questions. They overview the judicial system, and classic and new court cases bearing upon rights outlined in the Bill of Rights. Includes a case index and glossary. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
This casebook for students explores the authority of government as it has developed under U.S. constitutional law, with an emphasis on political factors. The volume contains excerpts from important Court rulings as well as commentary explaining how the law is being applied. Epstein (political science, Washington U., St. Louis) and Walker (political science, Emory U.) describe the events that lead up to the suits and the lawyers, litigants, and interest groups involved. Also included are a glossary of legal terms and brief biographies of justices. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Edward V. Heck
Nearly a decade ago Lawrence Baum (1983:194) observed that constitutional law texts were beginning to reflect the efforts of scholars to apply the perspectives and major findings of judicial process research to the study of constitutional law. Lee Epstein and Thomas Walker's two-volume CONSTITUTIONAL LAW FOR A CHANGING AMERICA provides yet another option for the constitutional law instructor seeking a text that will introduce students to constitutional interpretation and the Supreme Court from the perspective of political science. In terms of organization and case selection, Epstein and Walker's entry in this market is very much a textbook designed for a traditional two-semester constitutional law/civil liberties sequence. The volume subtitled INSTITUTIONAL POWERS AND CONSTRAINTS covers the topics traditionally found in a semester course emphasizing governmental powers (judicial review, separation of powers, federalism, economic substantive due process, etc.), while the RIGHTS, LIBERTIES, AND JUSTICE volume provides excerpts from most of the cases generally covered in courses that emphasize the protection of constitutional rights by the modern Supreme Court. The books owe a great deal to traditional one-volume textbooks, many of which are cited in the brief essays that introduce the chapters and provide transitions between cases. Yet, Epstein and Walker have gone beyond these traditional texts in many ways, most notably by paying explicit attention to the lawyers responsible for bringing cases to the Court and the arguments they presented to the justices. Not surprisingly, the authors highlight the many contributions of interest group lawyers, while also discussing the key arguments of governmental and private attorneys in essays and case introductions. In addition, these volumes offer features rarely found in traditional textbooks, including biographical sketches of leading justices and numerous photographs and illustrations that should help give students a good feel for the people involved in litigating constitutional issues. Although there is no explicit organizing theme that is carried through the two volumes, many of the chapters are organized around one or more themes with case introductions generally making clear how specific cases illustrate the themes. Some of the organizational decisions are somewhat unconventional and appear at first glance to be problematic. In the INSTITUTIONAL POWERS AND CONSTRAINTS volume, for example, the authors have split commerce clause cases between separate chapters on nation-state relations (HAMMER V. DAGENHART and U.S. V. DARBY) and the commerce power (U.S. V. E.C. KNIGHT and WICKARD V. FILBURN) with little regard for chronological development. Similarly, a chapter on the right to privacy in the rights and liberties volume mixes several Fourth Amendment cases with abortion and other privacy cases based on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Amazingly, it works. The introductory and transitional essays clearly bring out how the cases illustrate the themes of the chapters. And, of course, an instructor may simply choose to assign the commerce clause/Tenth Amendment cases in chronological order or to cover all Fourth Amendment cases under the heading of rights of the accused. Like all the books I examine each year as part of the never- ending search for the "perfect" constitutional law casebook, these volumes underrepresent a few topics I consider important and omit a few of my favorite cases (notably DUNCAN V. LOUISIANA). The chapter on incorporation of the Bill of Rights is thorough in covering the historical background of the debate, but very weak on Warren Court decisions embracing selective incorporation. Although the two death penalty cases excerpted in the book are precisely those I would select if limited to two Page 146 follows: cases, instructors who would like their students to explore the links between capital punishment decisions and the changing membership of the Court must look elsewhere for the cases. In the last analysis, though, I know of no competing text that provides a better selection of the cases that are vital to an understanding of the Court's role in interpreting a Constitution of rights and powers. Similarly, I found these volumes superior to most in striking the right balance between including too much of the original text and overediting. Almost without exception, the student who reads the case excerpts in CONSTITUTIONAL LAW FOR A CHANGING AMERICA should come away with a clear understanding of the major point of each majority opinion and at least some feel for the flavor of judicial discourse at the Supreme Court level. Naturally, one can quibble about the editing of specific cases. On the whole I found the decision to divide excerpts from complicated cases among different chapters (MCCULLOCH V. MARYLAND in legislative powers and nation-state relations chapters) or even different volumes (SLAUGHTERHOUSE CASES) somewhat artificial and potentially confusing. Looking beyond such relatively minor points, I was left with two serious criticisms of the editing of cases. Surely the five-plus pages devoted to excerpts from MARBURY V. MADISON would be better utilized by including Marshall's arguments about why the Constitution is "fundamental and paramount" law rather than unusually lengthy excerpts from the introductory sections of the opinion. Moreover, I was very disappointed to find that many significant dissenting opinions (for example, Holmes in LOCHNER, Stone in U.S. V. BUTLER, Rehnquist in ROE V. WADE) are omitted entirely. I regard omission of important dissents as a serious limitation, because it leads students to underestimate the reality of internal conflict in the Court, but I must hasten to note that the authors often address the key themes of omitted dissents in essays or in other cases. For example the right to privacy chapter concludes with precisely the excerpts from plurality, concurring, and dissenting opinions in WEBSTER V. REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES needed to prepare students to discuss the votes and opinions in PLANNED PARENTHOOD V. CASEY. An excellent appendix and clear, concise essays add materially to the value of the book. Useful features in the appendix include an impressive thumbnail sketch of the Court's history and a brief outline of Supreme Court procedures that is much clearer than most essays on the topic. Introductory essays in each chapter set the stage without detracting from the cases themselves. Transitional essays between cases generally provide concise and accurate summaries of cases that cannot be included in full but are essential to understanding what follows. Perhaps the single best feature of the book is the inclusion in each case introduction of a wealth of material on the political and social context of the case. I know of no other text that offers as much useful background material on major "quarrels that shaped the Constitution" as found here, particularly in the INSTITUTIONAL POWERS AND CONSTRAINTS volume where such material is vital for students with limited knowledge of American history. Either of the two volumes could stand alone for the appropriate one-semester/quarter course. The two volumes can be used in sequence wherever a two-semester course adheres to traditional norms for organizing such courses. Although my own two-semester course in constitutional law is a bit too unconventional to correlate with the usual allocation of cases to the two separate volumes (I cover the Supreme Court and race relations from DRED SCOTT to Ollie's Barbecue during the first semester), I have no hesitation in recommending these volumes to instructors who are comfortable with the division of case materials along conventional lines. For new instructors and those returning to the constitutional law course after a lapse of a few semesters, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW FOR A CHANGING AMERICA should provide just the right mix of structure and flexibility. Page 147 follows: Reference Baum, Lawrence (1983). "Judicial Politics: Still a Distinctive Field" in Finifter, Ada W., ed., POLITICAL SCIENCE: THE STATE OF THE DISCIPLINE. Washington: American Political Science Association.