Making Our Democracy Work

Making Our Democracy Work

A Judge's View

Book - 2010
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Random House, Inc.
The Supreme Court is one of the most extraordinary institutions in our system of government. Charged with the responsibility of interpreting the Constitution, the nine unelected justices of the Court have the awesome power to strike down laws enacted by our elected representatives. Why does the public accept the Court’s decisions as legitimate and follow them, even when those decisions are highly unpopular? What must the Court do to maintain the public’s faith? How can the Court help make our democracy work? These are the questions that Justice Stephen Breyer tackles in this groundbreaking book.

Today we assume that when the Court rules, the public will obey. But Breyer declares that we cannot take the public’s confidence in the Court for granted. He reminds us that at various moments in our history, the Court’s decisions were disobeyed or ignored. And through investigations of past cases, concerning the Cherokee Indians, slavery, and Brown v. Board of Education, he brilliantly captures the steps—and the missteps—the Court took on the road to establishing its legitimacy as the guardian of the Constitution.

Justice Breyer discusses what the Court must do going forward to maintain that public confidence and argues for interpreting the Constitution in a way that works in practice. He forcefully rejects competing approaches that look exclusively to the Constitution’s text or to the eighteenth-century views of the framers. Instead, he advocates a pragmatic approach that applies unchanging constitutional values to ever-changing circumstances—an approach that will best demonstrate to the public that the Constitution continues to serve us well. The Court, he believes, must also respect the roles that other actors—such as the president, Congress, administrative agencies, and the states—play in our democracy, and he emphasizes the Court’s obligation to build cooperative relationships with them.

Finally, Justice Breyer examines the Court’s recent decisions concerning the detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, contrasting these decisions with rulings concerning the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. He uses these cases to show how the Court can promote workable government by respecting the roles of other constitutional actors without compromising constitutional principles.

Making Our Democracy Work
is a tour de force of history and philosophy, offering an original approach to interpreting the Constitution that judges, lawyers, and scholars will look to for many years to come. And it further establishes Justice Breyer as one of the Court’s greatest intellectuals and a leading legal voice of our time.

Baker & Taylor
A Supreme Court justice outlines an accessible profile of the legislative branch's duties that explains its responsibility to safeguard the public while ensuring the cooperation of other government branches, sharing the stories behind key historical decisions. By the author of Active Liberty. 60,000 first printing.

Blackwell Publishing
"A brisk, lucid, and energetic book, written with conviction and offering a central argument that is at once provocative and appealing ... Deserves a place of honor in national debates, now and in the future, about the role of the Supreme Court in American life."---The New Republic

"An important contribution. Active Liberty serves to clarify the stakes in contemporary disputes over the courts, rightly emphasizing areas of common ground alongside those of controversy."---The Washington Post Book World

"Provocative and well-argued... What we need more of, Active Liberty insists, is not activist judges but activist citizens."---The New York Times

"Active Liberty will likely influence not only public debate but also how lawyers craft their cases."---The Wall Street Journal

The Supreme Court is one of the most extraordinary institutions in our system of government. Charged with the responsibility of interpreting the Constitution, the nine unelected justices of the Court have the awesome power to strike down laws enacted by our elected representatives. Why does the public accept the Court's decisions as legitimate and follow them, even when those decisions are highly unpopular? What must the Court do to maintain the public's faith? How can the Court help make our democracy work? These are the questions that Justice Stephen Breyer tackles in this groundbreaking book.

Today we assume that when the Court rules, the public will obey. But Breyer declares that we cannot take the public's confidence in the Court for granted. He reminds us that at various moments in our history, the Court's decisions were disobeyed or ignored. And through investigations of past cases, concerning the Cherokee Indians, slavery, and Brown v. Board of Education, he brilliantly captures the steps---and the missteps---the Court took on the road to establishing its legitimacy as teh guardian of the Constitution.

Justice Breyer discusses what the Court must do going forward to maintain that public confidence and argues for interpreting the Constitution in a way that works in practice. He forcefully rejects competing approaches that look exclusively to the Constitution's text or to the eighteenth-century views of the framers. Instead, he advocates a pragmatic approach that applies unchanging constitutional values to ever-changing circumstances---an approach that will best demonstrate to the public that the Constitution continues to serve us well. The Court, he believes, must also respect the roles that other actors---such as the president, Congress, administrative agencies, and the states---play in our democracy, and he emphasizes the Court's obligation to build cooperative relationships with them.

Finally, Justice Breyer examines the Court's recent decisions concerning the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, contrasting these decisions with rulings concerning the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. He uses these cases to show how the Court can promote workable government by respecting the roles of other constitutional actors with-out compromising constitutional principles.

Making Our Democracy Work is a tour de force of history and philosophy, offering an original approach to interpreting the Constitution that judges, lawyers, and scholars will look to for many years to come. And it further establishes Justice Breyer as one of the Court's greatest intellectuals and a leading legal voice of our time.

Baker
& Taylor

Explains the practice of judicial review by outlining the duties of the Supreme Court, discussing its role as guardian of the Constitution, the need to respect and work with other government branches, and the stories behind key historical decisions.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307269911
0307269914
Branch Call Number: 347.7312 B759m
Characteristics: xiv, 270 p. : ill. ; 25 cm

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