The Conservative Assault on the Constitution

The Conservative Assault on the Constitution

by Erwin Chemerinsky
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The Conservative Assault on the Constitution by Erwin Chemerinsky

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416574682
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 09/28/2010
Pages: 326
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Erwin Chemerinsky is the founding dean of the University of California Irvine Law School. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and Harvard Law School. After teaching law at DePaul College of Law, he moved to the University of Southern California, where he taught from 1983 to 2004. He frequently argued cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals in various jurisdictions and occasionally before the U.S. Supreme Court. He is well known in Los Angeles, where he helped draft a new city charter (he chaired the charter commission), issued a report on the city's police department, and commented on the O.J. Simpson trial. From 2004 to 2008 he taught at Duke University School of Law, before returning to southern California to start the law school at UCI.

He is the author of Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies, a widely used law school textbook.

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The Conservative Assault on the Constitution 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
DeafSonsDad More than 1 year ago
From the beginning to the end, the text shows why the concept of original intent is not applied. The ideology of the Justices is dictating the outcome of Court decisions. It is scary to see how the Supreme Court is empowering corporations and eroding liberty in the name of the Founding Fathers. This book points out that Justice is not blind. The book is not an easy read because the details are needed to show the differences in Court decisions and the Constitution. However, it is not written as a dense law textbook. Many heartfelt cases are presented that highlight the shift to the right of Court.
Trenton1776 More than 1 year ago
What a great read by constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky. This book is filled with so much legal insight and anecdotal evidence of how conservative ideology has limited certain individual rights granted under the Constitution through decisions made by preceding Supreme Courts--especially during the liberalism of the Warren Court era. Chemerinsky shows through several legal categories how the Supreme Court in the last thirty years has changed the makeup of constitutional law in unprecedented fashion. According to Chemerinsky, conservatives on the highest court have greatly limited due process rights granted to criminals by denying them their petition of habeas corpus; have attempted to knock down the wall separating church and state by narrowly reading, or ignoring all together, the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses under the First Amendment; they have greatly expanded sovereign immunity to be applicable to the States--virtually making suit against state governments impossible even if one's constitutional rights were purposely violated by the actions of state officials; also they have shown judicial irresponsibility by showing deference to the expansion of executive power by allowing the president to exercise powers not guaranteed, or granted, under the Constitution. But the issue that appears to be one of the most disturbing is the thirty years of the conservatives' assault on desegregation and affirmative action, thus making the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education nothing more than a relic of the Warren Court. Starting with President Nixon's desire to effectively end busing laws (i.e. an effective measure needed to desegregate schools), conservatives have sought to end desegregation by allowing schools and neighborhoods to re-segregate along the lines of economic disparity. Similarly, affirmative action has been wrongfully denounced by conservatives as lending favoritism to minority groups, when in fact, affirmative action is necessary in order to give minorities a chance at professional and educational opportunities not granted to them under the majority interests in the political sphere. What I take most from this book is the display of hypocrisy often shown by judicial conservatives. Conservatives claim that they abide by judicial restraint, adhering to the intent of the Framers, and that their interpretation of the Constitution is "merely applying the law, not making law." But, as this book effectively argues, such conservative rhetoric is far from the truth. Conservatives are known for displaying judicial activism just as much as liberals. Bush v.Gore showed that the entire election of the presidency was handed to George W. Bush by the decision of the Supreme Court (by it's five conservative justices). Furthermore, conservatives tend to practice judicial activism when it comes to gun rights by expanding the Right to Bear Arms Clause to apply to individuals, yet they ignore the State Militia Clause which was the reason for the ratification of the Second Amendment. Adhering strictly to the Framers intent, and strict construction, is another part of the conservative rhetoric wholly unprecedented in American jurisprudence. The problem with this view is quite evident: it is not always clear what the Framers intended when it comes to deciding tough constitutional issues, and how to apply them to the Constitution. Regardless of whether you are liberal or conservative, this is a must read book fo
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The current political climate is perplexing if not frightening. Chemerinsky tells it like it is. A must read.
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FLYNavy More than 1 year ago
First thing I noticed is that the editors review for an obviously left wing book is ENORMOUS! hmmmm..... Makes me wonder about politics being played here as I've never seen more than a few sentences of actual review written for any conservative literature. Second; Erwin Chemerinsky is a leftist. A liberal. A constitutional/judicial activist who believes that constitution should be re-molded as we go along. He believes in gun control, truncating peoples rights (elitism), abortion, and gay marriage. All this puts him firmly in the left wing & liberal camp. Don't get me wrong, he's stood up and been counted and come in on the side of reason and what's right on more than a few occasions, but when looking at this book, you need to remember the ideological direction he's coming from, because this book is written from THAT perspective.