Book Review: The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review

Larry D. Kramer has constructed a masterful work here that belongs in every American’s library. When it comes to subjects like judicial review, many author’s, themselves often constitutional attorneys, have a tendency to go out of their way to try to write “over the head” of the political novice. Not the case with Kramer’s work. He writes in a succinct fashion that will be appreciated by both judicial professionals and constitutional beginners alike.

Much evidence is found here which doesn’t really repudiate, and in many ways, supports that judicial review was in fact, the intent of the framer’s and perhaps even a logical conclusion. Kramer doesn’t really attempt to defy the judiciary claim of their right of review, but beyond that point, Kramer takes the gloves off and pounds away at what he categorizes as “judicial tyranny”, the court usurping its constitutional boundaries.

Kramer details the 200 year evolution of the court’s abuse of power, beginning before MARBURY when the idea of judicial review came into play, through what we find today with the judiciary legislating from the bench and completely dismissing state’s rights. It is also most interesting how the author chronicles Madison’s changing opinion of judicial review.

This book, in many ways, mirrors and supports the earlier work by Martyn Babitz, THE ILLUSION OF FREEDOM, where both authors support Madison’s concession that the “states only political recourse [over the federal courts] is through elections and impeachment”. But Kramer hints of other possibilities at controlling our out of control judiciary in his epilogue when he writes;

“The Constitution leaves room for countless political responses to an overly assertive Court: Justices can be impeached, the Court’s budget can be slashed, the President can ignore its mandates, Congress can strip it of jurisdiction or shrink its size or pack it with new members or give it burdensome new responsibilities or revise its procedures.”

Interesting possibilities, to be sure. In conclusion, I believe Kramer concedes judicial review as bona fide, but constructs a solid foundation to dispute the notion of judicial supremacy. This is a very enjoyable book that I learned a great deal from. The book at times, does read a bit slow, but that has nothing to do with Kramer’s writing style, it has to do with the fact that you are constantly finding new information and referring back to the bibliography, which will no doubt lead the reader to numerous other books to add to your reading list. I look forward to future books by this author.

Monty Rainey

About montyrainey

Public Speaker and District Manager. Mission: To empower and inspire others professionally, personally and spiritually to elevate their lives to a higher level.
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