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The Practice of American Constitutional Law
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Book description

Americans often think about constitutional law in terms of high-profile decisions by the Supreme Court – decisions that divide the justices by ideology, not law. This focus often leads to the erroneous conclusion that constitutional law arguments are, and can only be, political in substance. In The Practice of American Constitutional Law, H. Jefferson Powell demonstrates that there is a longstanding, shared practice of constructing and evaluating constitutional law claims that transcends current political disagreements. Powell describes how lawyers and judges identify constitutional problems by using a specifiable method of inquiry that enables them to agree on what the questions are, and thus what any plausible answer must address, even when disagreement over the most persuasive answers remains. Rather than being simply politics by other means, constitutional law is the successful practice of giving substance to the Constitution as supreme law.

Reviews

‘Jefferson Powell's latest book is the most important work on constitutional law in decades. This imaginative work focuses on the actual practices that unite us, rather than the theoretical disputes that divide us. In a brilliant reexamination of historic cases, Powell shows us how the law has evolved in the real world of a functioning constitution. This book is not merely for lawyers. Everyone who is interested in understanding how the Constitution actually works will benefit from the wisdom Powell brings to this subject.'

Walter Dellinger - former acting Solicitor General of the United States; Partner, O'Melveny & Myers, LLP

‘This book is an important contribution to the current (often polemically charged) discourse on American constitutional law. Lucidly presented, Powell's book focuses on American constitutional argumentation as it is actually practiced by constitutional lawyers and judges. His close examination of the case law demonstrates a remarkable stability over time as to what constitutes legitimate argument. Though written for the legendary ‘intelligent reader,' seasoned experts will benefit from this book.'

Henry P. Monaghan - Harlan Fiske Stone Professor of Constitutional Law, Columbia Law School

‘Reading Jeff Powell's beautiful, learned, and astonishingly comprehensive book transformed my sense of what constitutional law is and how it works. It should be read by every judge, lawyer, and indeed citizen of this country. When law itself is under threat in our world, he shows us what it is and why it is so important.'

James Boyd White - L. Hart Wright Professor of Law Emeritus and Professor of English Emeritus, University of Michigan; author of The Legal Imagination and Keep Law Alive

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