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The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution Through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisionsby Jay Wexler
Synopses & Reviews
If the United States Constitution were a zoo, and the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments were a lion, a giraffe, and a panda bear, respectively, then The Odd Clauses would be a special exhibit of shrews, wombats, and bat-eared foxes. Past the ever-popular monkey house and lion cages, Boston University law professor Jay Wexler leads us on a tour of the lesser-known clauses of the Constitution, the clauses that, like the yeti crab or platypus, rarely draw the big audiences but are worth a closer look. Just as ecologists remind us that even a weird little creature like a shrew can make all the difference between a healthy environment and an unhealthy one, understanding the odd clauses offers readers a healthier appreciation for our constitutional system. With Wexler as your expert guide through this jurisprudence jungle, you’ll see the Constitution like you’ve never seen it before.
Including its twenty-seven amendments, the Constitution contains about eight thousand words, but the well-known parts make up only a tiny percentage of the entire document. The rest is a hodgepodge of provisions, clauses, and rules, including some historically anachronistic, some absurdly detailed, and some crucially important but too subtle or complex to get popular attention. This book is about constitutional provisions like Section 2 of the Twenty-first Amendment, the letters of marque and reprisal clause, and the titles of nobility clauses—those that promote key democratic functions in very specific, and therefore seemingly quite odd, ways. Each of the book’s ten chapters shines a much-deserved light on one of the Constitution’s odd clauses—its history, its stories, its controversies, its possible future.
The Odd Clauses puts these intriguing beasts on display and allows them to exhibit their relevance to our lives, our government’s structure, and the integrity of our democracy.
Book News Annotation:
Some provisions of the US Constitution are famous, says Wexler (law, Boston U.), but he discusses some that even most law scholars do not know about, and that are never debated in election campaigns. They include the weights and measures clause about legislative powers, the original-jurisdiction clause about judicial powers, the natural-born citizen clause about who can serve in an elective office, the title of nobility clauses about equality, and the Third Amendment about privacy. He writes for general readers with no background in law. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
An innovative, insightful, and often humorous look at the Constitution's lesser-known clauses, offering a fresh approach to understanding our democracy.
In this captivating and witty book, Jay Wexler draws on his extensive background in constitutional law to shine a much-deserved light on some of the Constitution's lesser-known parts. For a variety of reasons, many of the Constitution's "odd clauses" never make it to any court, and therefore never make headlines or even law school classrooms that teach from judicial decisions. Wexler delves into many of those more obscure passages, which he uses to illuminate the essence of our democratic process, including our tripartite government; the principles of equality, liberty, and privacy; and the integrity of our democracy.
About the Author
Jay Wexler is a professor at the Boston University School of Law, where he has taught since 2001. Prior to teaching, Wexler studied religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School and law at Stanford Law School. After law school, he worked as a clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Supreme Court and then as a lawyer in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. He has published nearly two dozen academic articles, essays, and reviews, as well as over forty short stories and humor pieces in places like the Boston Globe, Spy, Mental Floss, and McSweeney’s. His first book was Holy Hullabaloos.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Incompatibility Clause Separation of Powers
Chapter 2: The Weights and Measures Clause Legislative Powers
Chapter 3: The Recess-Appointments Clause Presidential Powers
Chapter 4: The Original-Jurisdiction Clause Judicial Powers
Chapter 5: The Natural-Born Citizen Clause Elected Office for (Almost) Anyone!
Chapter 6: The Twenty-first Amendment Federalism
Chapter 7: The Letters of Marque and Reprisal Clause Foreign Affairs
Chapter 8: The Title of Nobility Clauses Equality
Chapter 9:The Bill of Attainder Clauses Liberty
Chapter 10: The Third Amendment Privacy
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