William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics Keith E. Whittington will join several colleagues in a public discussion to celebrate the release of his new book: Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy: The Presidency, the Supreme Court, and Constitutional Leadership in U.S. History (Princeton University Press, 2007), on Wednesday, May 2nd at 4:30 p.m., in Bowl 2 of Robertson Hall. Books will be available for purchase at that time through special arrangement with Princeton University Press.
This free public event is presented by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, and the Program in Law and Public Affairs.
Should the Supreme Court have the last word when it comes to interpreting the Constitution? The justices on the Supreme Court certainly seem to think so — and their critics say that this position threatens democracy. But in his new book, Keith Whittington argues that the Court's justices have not simply seized power and circumvented politics. The justices have had power thrust upon them—by politicians, for the benefit of politicians. In this sweeping political history of judicial supremacy in America, Whittington shows that presidents and political leaders of all stripes have worked to put the Court on a pedestal and have encouraged its justices to accept the role of ultimate interpreters of the Constitution. Whittington examines why presidents have often found judicial supremacy to be in their best interest, why they have rarely assumed responsibility for interpreting the Constitution, and why constitutional leadership has often been passed to the courts. The unprecedented assertiveness of the Rehnquist Court in striking down acts of Congress is only the most recent example of a development that began with the founding generation itself. Presidential bids for constitutional leadership have been rare, but reflect the temporary political advantage in doing so. Far more often, presidents have cooperated in increasing the Court's power and encouraging its activism. Challenging the conventional wisdom that judges have usurped democracy, Whittington shows that judicial supremacy is the product of democratic politics.
Joining Professor Whittington on the panel will be: Stanley C. Brubaker, Princeton University (2006-2007), Colgate University; Mark Graber, University of Maryland; and Ken I. Kersch, Princeton University. Robert P. George, Princeton University, will moderate the discussion.
Keith E. Whittington, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics, studies and writes on constitutional law and theory, separation of powers, American political development, and American political thought and culture. In addition to Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy, he is the author of Constitutional Construction: Divided Powers and Constitutional Meanings and Constitutional Interpretation: Textual Meaning, Original Intent, and Judicial Review, and co-editor of Congress and the Constitution and the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics. He is currently working on a political history of Supreme Court review of the constitutionality of federal statutes. He has been a John M. Olin Foundation Faculty Fellow, an American Council of Learned Societies Junior Faculty Fellow, a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Texas Law School. He holds a doctorate from Yale University.
For additional information, please telephone 609-258-5107 or visit the James Madison Program website.