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About the Book

Constitutional Law: Power, Liberty, Equality

Front Cover - Constitutional Law: Power, Liberty, Equality

Steven D. Jamar
Howard University School of Law

2017. 1200 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4548-7032-6. 

With Teacher's Manual, Syllabus, Author Letter, and Student Materials.

About the Book

This book presents most of the constitutional law cases generally considered canonical and, with one important exception, follows the tried and true organizational means widely used in constitutional law texts of dividing chapters and sections are along subject matter lines such as the Commerce Clause, equal protection, freedom of expression, and so on. Nonetheless, this book differs from other constitutional law textbooks in important ways. The text introduces cases by providing contextual information and by explicitly articulating much of the black letter law being introduced.  Under this structure the cases provide the student with the opportunity to more easily see the difference between the doctrine per se and how it is actually developed and used by the Court. Cases become examples of the rules being applied and vehicles for deeper exploration of broader principles and themes.  Starting with explanations rather than cases allows deeper and more immediate exploration of the interrelationship of history, methods of constitutional interpretation, underlying policies, and the content of constitutional doctrine. The book presents many short, simple hypotheticals on most subjects to help them confirm their ability to articulate the rules and to apply them in a straightforward way. The teachers’ manual provides more sophisticated problems suitable for workshops or extended consideration in class at the professor’s discretion. Selected comparative law coverage deepens understanding through contrast with constitutional provisions from other countries and with international human rights treaties. Occasional sections highlight social justice in constitutional interpretation and doctrine to help students see things in cases that traditional focus on doctrine, interpretation, and political aspects may miss.

The organizational innovation is bringing together many of the most important nineteenth-century cases in Chapter 2, “Foundational Principles and Cases.” By considering these early, foundational cases in an introductory chapter, students are immediately sensitized to the importance of attending to enduring themes of constitutional law in addition to doctrine. These themes include separation of powers and the role of the judiciary; federalism; methods of constitutional interpretation and methods of constitutional legal reasoning; and the role of race in constitutional adjudication. These major themes have been important throughout the history of constitutional adjudication and consequently thread their way throughout the rest of the chapters. Studying these older cases together also demonstrates that these modern concerns have been issues throughout the history of constitutional adjudication. 

Hallmark features ofConstitutional Law: Power, Liberty, Equality:

  • Presentation of black letter followed by cases allows students to more quickly focus on important aspects and on how the rules themselves are actually used
  • Comparative law focus places the U.S. Constitution in a broader international context and helps students to think more deeply about the choices made both by the original drafters of the Constitution and courts that have interpreted it over time
  • Aimed at demystifying constitutional law for novices learning the subject
  • Includes short, clear hypotheticals to help students confirm their ability to articulate the rules and then to apply them in a straightforward way
  • Innovative presentation of black letter law first, followed by presentation of cases as examples of application of those rules and as vehicles to explore deeper themes
  • Case editing for particular educational purposes with some longer excerpts for some cases and more severe editing for others
  • Comparative law contrasting international human rights norms and constitutional provisions from other countries to contrast with some of the United States’ constitutional provisions
  • Discussion of the role (or lack thereof) of social justice in constitutional interpretation and doctrine
  • Comprehensive and complete teaching text both with respect to breadth of coverage and with respect to how the material is presented–it is not merely a collection of cases 
  • Strong organization informed primarily to make learning easier
  • Inviting/accessible tone
  • Self-assessment questions/hypos reinforce learning
  • End-of-chapter outlines
  • Doesn't hide the ball, as so many other casebooks do

Preface / Sample Chapters