Whether you are an attorney or simply a student of Constitutional Law, this book is perhaps the most valuable resource you could ever add to your library. Professor Huebner has assembled a barrage of land mark cases and their effects on America.
The book is broken into 12 chapters, each covering different subject matter from Civil Liberties to Women’s Rights. Each chapter supplies the reader with documents on the subject matter, followed by essays from noted legal scholars.
I will use the final chapter to attempt to give the reader a feel for this magnificent work. Chapter 12, ORIGINAL INTENT AND CONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION, begins with a document by former Attorney General Edwin Meese on the wisdom of relying on the Framers’ Original Intentions. Here, Meese echos the sentiments of the early Massachusetts democrats who wrote into the state constitution, “the best defense of our liberties is a government of laws, not men.”
Next we find a document from former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, jr on the Failure of the Doctrine of Original Intent. Brennan here describes originalism as nothing more than “arrogance cloaked as humility.” Brennan presents a view that the judiciary must approach interpretation by accepting the ambiguity inherent in the effort to apply them to modern circumstances.
The final document of this chapter is Justice Thurgood Marshall’s paper on the Constitution’s bicentennial: Commemorating the Wrong Document? Marshall further expresses Brennan’s view that the Constitution is fluid and evolving with the times. Marshall predicates his arguments by saying the founders could never have envisioned the changes in our social order. Marshall’s paper seeks not to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the accomplishment that is the US Constitution, but rather to understand on its 200th anniversary, a “sensitive understanding of its defects.”
Once the reader has muddled through these convoluted and rather distorted views, the real fun begins. The reader finds two radically differing essays on the subject, one by Raoul Berger which supports much of the view expressed by Meese, the other by Leonard Levy who examines the consequences of the failure to follow Original Intent.
Each chapter is presented in a similar fashion, however some of the chapters also include landmark cases on the subject at hand. For instance, in Chapter 6, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, Hall includes such cases as Brown v. Board of Education and Plessy v. Ferguson. Non-unanimous cases are then given the courts opinion as well as the dissenting opinion.
Each chapter concludes with a “Further Reading” section that is sure to stimulate the reader for future study. This book is a must have for your library.