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Professor Michael Dorf

No Litmus Test: Law versus Politics in the Twenty-First Century

Michael Dorf (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006)

The recent battles over the U.S. Supreme Court nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito make clear that the law is under assault from both the political right and left. And as Professor Dorf shows in No Litmus Test, due to hit the book stores in March, these fights are nothing new.

Conservatives denounce what they see as liberal judicial activism in decisions involving abortion, gay rights, and the separation of church and state. They seek judges who will "apply" rather than "make" the law. Meanwhile, liberals decry the apparent hypocrisy of a Supreme Court that invokes states' rights to invalidate civil rights laws while overriding states' rights in order to put a Republican in the White House. Backed by academics who have been arguing against the possibility of objectivity for roughly a century, many critics on the left have essentially given up: Law, they contend, is simply politics in disguise.

By analyzing the most pressing controversies of our day, Prof. Dorf defends the possibility of principled legal decision making against the attacks of both the right and the left. From Bush v. Gore to the war in Iraq, No Litmus Test demonstrates that even when the law provides no clear-cut right answers, it offers tools for distinguishing good arguments from bad ones.

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Constitutional Law Stories

Professor Michael Dorf, ed. (Foundation Press, New York, 2004)

Constitutional Law Stories is the latest release from the Foundation Press Law Stories series, which is designed to bring landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases to life. The book is of interest to scholars and arm chair historians interested in 15 highly influential cases that changed the political, social, and economic landscape of America. Rich in drama, the cases provide real lessons pertaining to the interpretation of the Constitution. Included are Roe v. Wade, which upheld abortion rights; Clinton v. Jones, which denied President Clinton temporary immunity from civil litigation and set the stage for his eventual impeachment; and Korematsu v. United States, which questioned the legality of military orders excluding Japanese-Americans from the West Coast of the United States during World War II.

Each scholar provides an in-depth analysis of leading federal constitutional law cases, offers behind-the-scenes stories that outline the historical context of each case, and defines the role these cases play in framing fundamental questions about American law and government. Among the contributors are Professor Samuel Issacharoff writing on Baker v. Carr and Professor Vincent Blasi on West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.

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