Justice vs. Law: Courts and Politics in American Society

Justice vs. Law: Courts and Politics in American Society

by Eugene W. Hickok, Gary L. Macdowell

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A detailed analysis of a child-abuse case reveals all of the aspects of the judicial system, including the limits of justice, and makes an argument for judicial restraint.See more details below


A detailed analysis of a child-abuse case reveals all of the aspects of the judicial system, including the limits of justice, and makes an argument for judicial restraint.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While the power of the courts directly affects our lives, as have the Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of Education decisions, the authors contend that, contrary to our concept of the courts as ``arbiters of competing moral claims,'' their task is not to embody justice but to define public policy under the law. Among other cases in this clear exposition of a highly complex subject, McDowell ( Equity and the Constitution ) and Hickok ( Constitutionalism v. Congress ) cite the three-year-long judicial procedures in DeShaney v. Winnebago County , a case filed in 1988 involving a boy rendered brain-dead by an abusive father. Before the Supreme Court, the mother claimed $1 million in damages, charging Wisconsin social workers with negligence as ``a constitutional deprivation under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.'' She lost. The authors also review politicization of the selection and confirmation of justices, from conservative to activist, including the Bork controversy, and speculate on the future of the present court, along with the ``brokering'' nature of the present Congress. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This overview of recent U.S. Supreme Court controversies shows how the case DeShaney v. Winnego County Social Services (1989), which concerns child abuse, demonstrates major issues of constitutional interpretation and the transformation and meaning of due process of law of the 14th Amendment. Dickinson College professor Hickok and McDowell, a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School, reveal conflicting views among Supreme Court justices about the Court's proper role in American politics and the scope of judicial authority. They investigate the court's obligations within the 14th Amendment's due process clause. The authors also praise the effort of Presidents Reagan and Bush to return courts to what the authors consider the proper constitutional role by stemming judicial activism in the federal courts. This book effectively incorporates main tenets of modern constitutional interpretation and provides information about key constitutional controversies. Highly recommended.-- Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ.
Ray Olson
It seems nowadays that every big national issue winds up in the Supreme Court--again and again in matters such as civil rights and abortion. Hickok and McDowell rue this state of affairs, but in their analysis, they forgo polemics and produce a public policy argument of the first order. Their effort is tripartite. First, they limn "DeShaney" v. "Winnebago County" (1989), in which so-called strict constructionism won the day: the letter of the law was observed even though individual justice was thwarted by the decision. Next, they trace the history, old as the Court itself, of contention over the nature and extent of judicial power--a history marked by decisions in which judicial activism (justices' personal notions of justice) won out over the constitutional text and in which political pressures upon appointments to the high court greatly increased. Finally, Hickok and McDowell discuss the predicament of today's Supreme Court--as much ultimate legislator as ultimate arbiter--and what, besides the incremental legitimation of judicial activism in the eyes of the legal profession and the general public, brought it about. They conclude popular government is in a real fix when moral issues that ought to be deliberated and decided in, if not before they reach, Congress are forced upon the Court. This is the kind of engaged history writing we all should have encountered in school. Superb.

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