We Dissent: Talking Back to the Rehnquist Court : Eight Cases That Subverted Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

We Dissent: Talking Back to the Rehnquist Court : Eight Cases That Subverted Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

We Dissent: Talking Back to the Rehnquist Court : Eight Cases That Subverted Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

We Dissent: Talking Back to the Rehnquist Court : Eight Cases That Subverted Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

Synopsis

The lawyers and legal commentators who contribute to We Dissent unanimously agree that during Chief Justice William Rehnquist's nineteen-year tenure, the Supreme Court failed to adequately protect civil liberties and civil rights. This is evident in majority opinions written for numerous cases heard by the Rehnquist Court, and eight of those cases are re-examined here, with contributors offering dissents to the Court's decisions. The Supreme Court opinions criticized in We Dissent suggest that the Rehnquist Court placed the interests of government above the people, and as the dissents in this book demonstrate, the Court strayed far from our constitutional ideals when it abandoned its commitment to the protection of the individual rights of Americans. Each chapter focuses on a different case - ranging from torture to search and seizure, and from racial profiling to the freedom of political expression - with contributors summarizing the case and the decision, and then offering their own dissent to the majority opinion. For some cases featured in the book, the Court's majority decisions were unanimous, so readers can see here for the first time what a dissent might have looked like. In other cases, contributors offer alternative dissents to the minority opinion, thereby widening the scope of opposition to key civil liberties decisions made by the Rehnquist Court. Taken together, the dissents in this unique book address the pressing issue of Constitutional protection of individual freedom, and present a vision of constitutional law in the United States that differs considerably from the recent jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court. This vision takes seriously a commitment to democratic values, social justice and racial equality and insists upon governmental accountability to our citizens and others protected by the Constitution. Contributors: Michael Avery, Erwin Chemerinsky, Marjorie Cohn, Tracey Maclin, Eva Paterson, Jamin Raskin, David Rudovsky, Susan Kiyomi Serrano, and Abbe Smith.

Excerpt

Michael Avery

We Dissent presents a vision of constitutional law in the United States that differs considerably from the recent jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court. It is a vision that takes seriously a commitment to democratic values, social justice, and racial equality and that insists upon governmental accountability to our citizens and others protected by the Constitution. We Dissent was provoked by the distance the Supreme Court traveled from these ideals during the tenure of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

The book contains critical essays regarding eight decisions that concern constitutional rights and civil liberties rendered by the Supreme Court between 1984 and 2003. the opinions were handed down during the tenure of Chief Justice Rehnquist, except for Strickland v. Washington, which was decided while Justice Rehnquist was on the Supreme Court but before he was named Chief Justice. Strickland was typical of the jurisprudence of the “Rehnquist Court” and was followed repeatedly during his tenure as Chief Justice.

The Supreme Court opinions discussed here suggest that the Rehnquist Court was more committed to protecting the government and government officials from the people than it was in protecting the people from the government. the latter, of course, is the principal purpose of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. Over and over again, the Court narrowed the scope of constitutional rights that protect individual liberty. During the nineteen years of Chief Justice Rehnquist's tenure, the Court, through both procedural and substantive decisions, made it substantially more difficult for individuals to obtain vindication for violations of their rights and compensation for injuries resulting from constitutional violations. At the same time that the Court made it more difficult to hold government officials accountable for constitutional violations, it developed a jurisprudence . . .

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