This book examines the closing of the federal courts to individuals challenging the constitutionality of conduct by state and local officials. In recent years the Supreme Court has used various legal doctrines to restrict federal courts, and resurrect state courts as the primary guardians of constitutional rights. The Court has frequently invoked vague notions of federalism to support these doctrines and the door-closing developments.
I criticize the Court's departure from the plan for protection of constitutional rights that was established in principle after the Civil War and finally became a reality after the 1954 school desegregation case. I argue that, notwithstanding the potential for friction in state-federal relations, the protection of constitutional rights is a national issue that transcends local interests and local control. It is an issue that should be part of the business of the federal courts, including not only the Supreme Court but the lower courts as well.
I should stress that the book does not focus primarily on the role of the Supreme Court or on the legitimacy of judicial review. These topics have been covered extensively elsewhere. My principal concern is the role of the entire federal judiciary in protecting constitutional rights. To be sure, the book examines doctrines developed by the Supreme Court; my interest is the impact of those doctrines on the ability of lower federal courts