The Intelligible Constitution: The Supreme Court's Obligation to Maintain the Constitution As Something We, the People, Can Understand / Edition 1

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Overview

In Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, a critical abortion rights case, a bitterly divided Supreme Court produced no less than six different opinions. Writing for the plurality, Chief Justice Rehnquist attacked the trimester framework established in Roe v. Wade because it was "not found in the text of the Constitution or in any place else one would expect to find a constitutional principle." This approach, writes legal authority Joseph Goldstein, confuses constitutional principles (in this case, the right to privacy) with the means to protect them (here, the trimester system). As a result, the Court left the public bewildered about the constitutional scope of a woman's right to reproductive choice--failing in its duty to speak clearly to the American public about the Constitution. In The Intelligible Constitution, Goldstein makes a compelling argument that, in a democracy based upon informed consent, the Supreme Court has an obligation to communicate clearly and candidly to We the People when it interprets the Constitution. After a fascinating discussion of the language of the Constitution and Supreme Court opinions (including the analysis of Webster), he presents a series of opinion studies in important cases, focusing not on ideology but on the Justices' clarity of thought and expression. Using the two Brown v. Board of Education cases, Cooper v. Aaron, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, and others as his examples, Goldstein demonstrates the pitfalls to which the Court has succumbed in the past: Writing deliberately ambiguous decisions to win the votes of colleagues, challenging each others' opinions in private but not in public, and not speaking honestly when the writer knows a concurring Justice misunderstands the opinion which he or she is supporting. Even some landmark decisions, he writes, have featured seriously flawed opinions--preventing We the People from understanding why the Justices reasoned as they did, and why they disagreed
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195093759
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/28/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Joseph Goldstein is Sterling Professor of Law at Yale University Law School, and is the author and coauthor of a number of books on the law, including The Government of a British Trade Union, Beyond the Best Interests of the Child, and Criminal Law, Theory, and Process.

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Table of Contents

A Foreword
Pt. I Why an Intelligible Constitution
Ch. 1 Made for an Undefined Future 3
Pt. II Opinion Studies
Ch. 2 With Studied Ambiguity
National League of Cities v. Usery and Garcia v. San Antonio Metro Transit Authority 25
Ch. 3 Had Understanding Been the Goal
Cooper v. Aaron 43
Ch. 4 Decisions Unexplained
The Brown v. Board of Education Cases 57
Ch. 5 Failing to Take Their Own and Each Other's Opinions Seriously
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke 81
Pt. III Canons of Comprehensibility
Ch. 6 Toward the Intelligible Constitution 109
Appendix: The Constitution of the United States 135
Notes 163
Case Index 195
Name Index 197
Index 199
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