For the People: What the Constitution Really Says about Your Rights

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When serving on a jury, can you ever interpret the Constitution yourself? When threatened by your city's taking of your property, do you have any recourse aside from lobbying or voting the bums out in the next election? If you disagree with a Supreme Court decision, is there anything you can do? In this bold and groundbreaking book, Akhil Reed Amar and Alan Hirsch answer "yes" to these questions and invite you to rediscover your Constitution. Over time, our rich constitutional rights have been obscured, along ...
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Overview

When serving on a jury, can you ever interpret the Constitution yourself? When threatened by your city's taking of your property, do you have any recourse aside from lobbying or voting the bums out in the next election? If you disagree with a Supreme Court decision, is there anything you can do? In this bold and groundbreaking book, Akhil Reed Amar and Alan Hirsch answer "yes" to these questions and invite you to rediscover your Constitution. Over time, our rich constitutional rights have been obscured, along with this essential truth: We own our government, and government officials operate at our discretion. To preserve that ownership, the Framers of the Constitution gave the People crucial rights and responsibilities - which, regrettably, have faded from view. At the ballot box, in the Jury room, and on the battlefield, the People wield far more rights than we generally realize. We - all of us, black and white, male and female, straight and gay - are sovereign in our own nation. We are the rulers; government officials are our servants. It is high time to rediscover the true meaning of our Constitution.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A strange sight, indeed: Popular sovereignty is taken seriously in a discussion of the Constitution. In this populist interpretation of the Constitution, Amar (Law/Yale) and Hirsch (a freelance writer and graduate of Yale Law School) insist that "we the people" denotes a collective entity, not a collection of individuals. They contend that viewing the Constitution "through the prism of the individual" has overemphasized the majority-rule/minority-rights debate and has been reinforced by the tendency to dissect discrete passages rather than interpret the document as a whole. We have come to assume that "rights" refers to individual rights, ignoring the politically more fundamental conception of rights held by the public as a whole. Amar and Hirsch respond to this deficiency by exploring the implications of a broad reading (not to be confused with loose construction) of the Constitution regarding constitutional amendment, juries, and the military. In this volume's most controversial argument, the authors maintain that the specific procedures for amendment outlined in the Constitution do not preclude direct amendment by majority vote of the populace. The logic is inescapably democratic: If popular sovereignty is meaningful, how could the people be deprived of the right to amend the Constitution? Similarly, Amar and Hirsch find inalienable rights applicable to juries and the military, with straightforward implications. Peremptory challenges eliminating a candidate from jury service, for example, are not consistent with either the citizen's right to serve or the public's right to try the accused. Access to military service is no less a citizen's right or a public concern,consequently the authors argue that blocking the entry of gays or women into the ranks is indefensibleif the rights of "we the people" are truly paramount. Consistent and contentious throughout, Amar and Hirsch offer an analysis that should threaten both liberals and conservatives with a commitment to popular sovereignty both like to avoid.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684826943
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 2/2/1998
  • Pages: 259
  • Product dimensions: 6.47 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
Pt. 1 the Ballot Box
1 The People's Right to Amend the Constitution 3
2 Why Amendment by the People Is Not Dangerous 20
3 The Right to Make State Law by Plebiscite 34
Pt. 2 the Jury Box
4 The Jury: What's the Big Idea? 51
5 The Constitutional Right to Serve on Juries 59
6 The Unconstitutionality of Peremptory Challenges 64
7 Rethinking the For-Cause Dismissal 79
8 The Right of Young Adults to Serve on Juries 86
9 Jury Review 93
10 Jury Nullification 105
11 The Public's Right to a Jury Trial 115
12 Suing Our Servants 120
Pt. 3 the Cartridge Box
13 National Security: the Constitutional Design 129
14 The Constitutional Right to Serve in the Military 135
15 Gays in the Military 140
16 Women in Combat 151
17 The Unconstitutionality of a National Draft (?) 158
18 The Right to Bear Arms 169
Pt. 4 the Lunch Box
19 Forty Acres and a Mule 183
Conclusion 200
App The Constitution of the United States 203
End Notes 227
Index 253
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