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The Conservative Assault on the Constitution

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About This Book
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.
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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
eBook (336 pages)
Published: September 28, 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Imprint: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781451606355
Other books byErwin Chemerinsky
  • Enhancing Government

    Enhancing Government
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    Federalism—the division of power between national and state governments—has been a divisive issue throughout American history. Conservatives argued in support of federalism and states' rights to oppose the end of slavery, the New Deal, and desegregation. In the 1990s, the Rehnquist Court used federalism to strike down numerous laws of public good, including federal statutes requiring the clean up of nuclear waste and background checks for gun ownership. Now the Roberts Court appears poised to use federalism and states' rights to limit federal power even further. In this book, Erwin Chemerinsky passionately argues for a different vision: federalism as empowerment. He analyzes and criticizes the Supreme Court's recent conservative trend, and lays out his own challenge to the Court to approach their decisions with the aim of advancing liberty and enhancing effective governance. While the traditional approach has been about limiting federal power, an alternative conception would empower every level of government to deal with social problems. In Chemerinsky's view, federal power should address national problems like environmental protection and violations of civil rights, while state power can be strengthened in areas such as consumer privacy and employee protection. The challenge for the 21st century is to reinvent American government so that it can effectively deal with enduring social ills and growing threats to personal freedom and civil liberties. Increasing the chains on government—as the Court and Congress are now doing in the name of federalism—is exactly the wrong way to enter the new century. But, an empowered federalism, as Chemerinsky shows, will profoundly alter the capabilities and promise of U.S. government and society.

    Criminal Procedure

    Criminal Procedure
    Erwin ChemerinskyandLaurie L. Levensonbring to this casebook a wealth of experience as practicing attorneys, law professors, and authors. Written in the approachable style that characterizes Chemerinsky’sConstitutional Lawcasebook,Criminal Procedureguides students to an understanding of the law through tightly edited cases and a dynamic and innovative pedagogy.Criminal Procedure offers:eloquent and substantive writingthat draws on deep wells of experience and scholarship adynamic and innovative pedagogythat includes tightly edited cases, author-written essays, legal pleadings that argue the issues, and the perspectives of prosecutors, defense counsel, judges, police, and victims achronological organizationthat walks the student through the criminal justice process, from the investigation to habeas corpus aconsistently systematic treatmentof topics in every chapter: an introduction to the underpinning issues of the law discussion of the history and development of the law in response to those issues examples of recent or seminal cases that have shaped the law analysis of the success or failure of the law to adequately remedy the issue that gave rise to its inception Supreme Court cases through October Term 2006, along with many familiar chestnuts a detailed Teacher’s Manual that includes questions and answers for classroom discussion a complete teaching package that includes PowerPoint slides, a DVD that presents the facts and backgrounds of several key cases, and a website Dynamic and innovative,Criminal Procedureshows—through clear and succinct text, tightly edited cases, legal pleadings, and the perspectives of participants and players—a complete picture of the criminal procedure system. An author website to support classroom instruction using this title is available at http://www.aspenlawschool.com/chemerinsky_levenson

    Criminal Procedure

    Criminal Procedure
    Adjudication
    Combining first-hand knowledge of the criminal procedure system with stellar constitutional law scholarship, Levenson and Chemerinsky now offer a free-standing and student-friendly casebook that focuses on the adjudication phase of criminal procedure.Written in the eminently articulate style that characterizes Chemerinsky’s Constitutional Law casebook,Criminal Procedure: Adjudicationoffers:straightforward essaysby the authors that illuminate principal and minor casesa first-chapter overview of criminal procedurethat looks at: the roles of the participants the progression of a case through the system key procedural rules and governing principles the Incorporation Doctrine the test for determining when new procedural rules should be applied retroactivelya consistent and systematic chapter structure that:introduces the topic discusses the history and development of the law cites examples from recent cases where the key issues have been raised offers an analytic critique of the resolution of the issueschronologically organized chapter topicsthat mirror the sequential ordering of the adjudication processsamples of legal pleadingsthat exemplify attorneys’ actual argumentsa panoramic perspective on practiceas conveyed through the eyes of prosecutors, defense counsel, judges, police, and victimsSupreme Court cases from the 2006-2007 terma detailed Teacher’s Manualthat offers questions and answers to support teaching and fuel class discussionan expanded teaching packagethat includesPowerPoint slides, aDVDthat presents the facts and backgrounds of several key cases, and anauthor websiteSure, it is a pleasure to teach and to read, but you could decide to adopt it simply for the wealth of experience and expertise thatChemerinskyandLevensonbring to their subject.

    Professional Responsibility, 2005 ed. (Law School Legends Audio Series)

    Professional Responsibility, 2005 ed. (Law School Legends Audio Series)
    The Professional Responsibility three hour audio lecture on compact disc explains regulation of attorneys, bar admission, unauthorized practice, competency, discipline, judgment, layer-client relationship, representation, and withdrawal. It also discusses conflicts, disqualification, clients, client interests, successive and effective representation, integrity, candor, confidences, secrets, and past and future crimes. Other topics include perjury, communications, witnesses, jurors, the court, the press, trial tactics, prosecutors, market, solicitation, advertising, law firms, fees, client property, conduct, and political activity. This lecture also includes an 11 page handout.

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