Skip to main content Accessibility help
The Practice of American Constitutional Law
  • Export citation
  • Recommend to librarian
  • Buy the print book

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.


‘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

Refine List

Actions for selected content:

Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Save to Kindle
  • Save to Dropbox
  • Save to Google Drive

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between #date#. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.