The Most Democratic Branch: How the Courts Serve America

Hardcover | April 30, 2006

byJeffrey Rosen

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Many critics attack federal judges as anti-democratic elitists, activists out of step with the mainstream of American thought. But others argue that judges should stand alone as the ultimate guardians of American values, placing principle before the views of the people. In The Most Democratic Branch, Jeffrey Rosen disagrees with both assertions. Contrary to what interest groups may claim, he contends that, from the days of John Marshall right up to the present, the federal courts by and large have reflected the opinions of the mainstream. More important, heargues that the Supreme Court is most successful when it defers to the constitutional views of the American people, as represented most notably by Congress and the Presidency. And on the rare occasion when they departed from the consensus, the result has often been a disaster. To illustrate, Rosen provides a penetrating look at some of the most important Supreme Court cases in American history--cases involving racial equality, affirmative action, abortion, gay rights and gay marriage, the right to die, electoral disputes, and civil liberties in wartime. Rosen showsthat the most notorious constitutional decisions in American history--the ones that have been most strenuously criticized, such as Dred Scott or Roe v. Wade--have gone against mainstream opinion. By contrast, the most successful decisions--from Marbury v. Madison to Brown v. Board of Education--haveavoided imposing constitutional principles over the wishes of the people. Rosen concludes that the judiciary works best when it identifies the constitutional principles accepted by a majority of Americans, and enforces them unequivocally as fundamental law. Jeffrey Rosen is one of the most respected legal experts writing today, a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine and the Legal Affairs Editor of The New Republic. The provocative arguments that he puts forth here are bound to fuel heated debate at a time when the federal judiciaryis already the focus of fierce criticism.

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Many critics attack federal judges as anti-democratic elitists, activists out of step with the mainstream of American thought. But others argue that judges should stand alone as the ultimate guardians of American values, placing principle before the views of the people. In The Most Democratic Branch, Jeffrey Rosen disagrees with ...

Jeffrey Rosen is Professor of Law at George Washington University. Named by The Chicago Tribune as one of the best magazine journalists in America, he is the author of The Unwanted Gaze and The Naked Crowd, and his essays and commentaries have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and The New R...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 5.71 × 8.31 × 0.98 inPublished:April 30, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195174437

ISBN - 13:9780195174434

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsPrefaceIntroduction: The Most Democratic BranchChapter 1. Cautionary TalesChapter 2. RaceChapter 3. Love and DeathChapter 4. PoliticsChapter 5. Civil LibertiesEpilogue: Constitutional Futurology, or What are Courts Good For?NotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"A well-written book that even most undergraduate students should be able to understand. The pace is swift enough that students should not lose interest.... The book should effectively stimulate discussions about the proper role of the courts."--Law and Politics Book Review