The Least Dangerous Branch?: Consequences of Judicial Activism

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002 - Law - 221 pages
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Is the American judiciary still the least dangerous branch, as Alexander Hamilton and legal scholar Alexander Bickel characterized it? Unlike legislatures or administrative agencies, courts do not make policy so much as direct and redirect policy as it is implemented. The judicial contribution to policymaking involves the infusion of constitutional rights into the realm of public policy, and as the government has grown, the courts have become more powerful from doing more and more of this. Powers and Rothman explore the impact of the federal courts, providing a brief account of the development of constitutional law and an overview of the judiciary's impact in six controversial areas of public policy.


*Affirmative action

*Prison reform

*Mental health reform

*Procedural reforms in law enforcement

*Electoral redistricting

In each of these areas, the authors review significant cases that bear on the particular policy, exploring the social science evidence to assess the impact of the courts on policies-and the consequences of that intervention. Powers and Rothman conclude that judicial intervention in public policy has often brought about undesirable consequences, sometimes even for the intended beneficiaries of government intervention.


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Hamiltons Wager and the Rise of Judicial Activism
Brown Busing and the Consequences of Desegregation
Affirmative Action and the Consequences of Racial Preference
Prisoners Rights and the Consequences of Correctional Reform
Mental Health and the Consequences of Deinstitutionalization
The Courts and Criminal Procedure
Courts Voting Rights and the Consequences of Racial Redistricting
The Courts and Institutional Reform

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Page 3 - Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them.

About the author (2002)

STEPHEN P. POWERS is Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change, Smith College. He is coauthor, with Stanley Rothman, of a number of articles as well as Hollywood's America: Social and Political Themes in Motion Pictures.

STANLEY ROTHMAN is Mary Huggins Gamble Professor Emeritus of Government and Director of the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change, Smith College. He has authored, coauthored, or edited more than 15 books and 150 articles and reviews. His books range in topics from Environmental Cancer: A Political Disease? to Prime Time: How TV Portrays American Culture.

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