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.
Mental health reform
Procedural reforms in law enforcement
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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