Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Shadd reviews Liu, Karlan, & Schroeder, "Keeping Faith with the Constitution"

The Law & Politics Book Review has posted a review of Keeping Faith with the Constitution, by Goodwin Liu, Pamela S. Karlan, and Christopher H. Schroeder.  The American Constitution Society published the first version of the book in 2009.  Oxford University Press released an updated version in 2010. (We linked to the August 2010 TNR review.)

According to reviewer Philip Shadd (Queen’s University), the book "provides a clearly written, succinct, and compelling analysis of the historical trajectory of American constitutional interpretation."

Here's a bit more:
Goodwin Liu, Pamela S. Karlan, and Christopher H. Schroeder frame their argument in KEEPING FAITH WITH THE CONSTITUTION by dividing existing theories of constitutional interpretation into two camps, and by presenting their own theory as a third option (pp.25-26). On the one hand are theories that argue the constitution should be interpreted as the original Framers would have understood it; on the other are those that argue the constitution should be viewed as a “living tree.” The theory proposed by the authors – “constitutional fidelity” – is preferable to both because it recognizes that in order to be faithful to the constitution, interpretations must account both for the principles of America’s jurisprudential past as well as for the changing social contexts in which those constitutional principles must now be applied. Only in this way can the constitution remain a vital and democratically legitimate document for future generations of Americans.
Keeping Faith with the Constitution has been in the news recently because of Liu's confirmation battle. This review is a reminder of the book's strengths and weaknesses as a piece of scholarship.  Readers of this blog may be particularly interested in the authors' use of historical examples and their emphasis on change over time in social attitudes.  The full review is here.