The Least Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics

Yale University Press, 1986 M09 10 - 303 páginas

This classic book on the role of the Supreme Court in our democracy traces the history of the Court, assessing the merits of various decisions along the way. Eminent law professor Alexander Bickel begins with Marbury vs. Madison, which he says gives shaky support to judicial review, and concludes with the school desegregation cases of 1954, which he uses to show the extent and limits of the Court’s power. In this way he accomplishes his stated purpose: “to have the Supreme Court’s exercise of judicial review better understood and supported and more sagaciously used.” The book now includes new foreword by Henry Wellington.

Reviews of the Earlier Edition:

“Dozens of books have examined and debated the court’s role in the American system. Yet there remains great need for the scholarship and perception, the sound sense and clear view Alexander Bickel brings to the discussion…. Students of the court will find much independent and original thinking supported by wide knowledge. Many judges could read the book with profit.” –Donovan Richardson, Christian Science Monitor

“The Yale professor is a law teacher who is not afraid to declare his own strong views of legal wrongs… One of the rewards of this book is that Professor Bickel skillfully knits in quotations from a host of authorities and, since these are carefully documented, the reader may look them up in their settings. Among the author’s favorites is the late Thomas Reed Powell of Harvard, whose wit flashes on a good many pages.” –Irving Dillard, Saturday Review


Páginas seleccionadas


Establishment and General Justification
The Premise of Distrust and Rules
The Rule of the Succesful Operation
The Lincolnian Tension
The Infirm Glory of the Positive Hour
The Passive Virtues
The Power to Decline the Exercise
and the Uses of Procedure and Construction
Neither Force nor Will
The Supreme Court
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Página v - 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.
Página 16 - Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power. It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the legislature declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people declared in the constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter, rather than the former. They ought to regulate their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental.
Página 12 - Thus, the particular phraseology of the Constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written constitutions, that a law repugnant to the Constitution is void; and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.

Acerca del autor (1986)

Alexander M. Bickel was professor of law at Yale University. 

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