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51 Imperfect Solutions: States and the Making of American Constitutional Law

  • 214 Massachusetts Avenue Northeast Washington, DC, 20002 United States (map)

When we think of constitutional law, we invariably focus on the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal court system. Yet much of our constitutional law is not made at the federal level. In 51 Imperfect Solutions, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton argues that American Constitutional Law should account for the role of the state courts and state constitutions, together with the federal courts and the federal constitution, in protecting individual liberties.

51 Imperfect Solutions addresses four different areas of constitutional law: equal protection, criminal procedure, privacy, and free speech and free exercise of religion. Traditional accounts of these bedrock debates about the relationship of the individual to the state focus on decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. But these are only part of the story. Judge Sutton corrects this omission by looking at each issue – and some others as well – through the lens of many constitutions, not one constitution; of many courts, not one court; and of all American judges, not federal or state judges. A central conviction of his work is that an under-appreciation of state constitutional law has hurt state and federal law and has undermined the appropriate balance between state and federal courts in protecting individual liberty. Several ideas for reform are also offered to correct this imbalance. Join us for an interesting and lively discussion with Judge Sutton on his new book, followed by comments by Ed Whelan.