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Saying What the Law Is

Saying What the Law Is

The Constitution in the Supreme Court

Charles Fried

ISBN 9780674019546

Publication date: 09/06/2005

In a few thousand words the Constitution sets up the government of the United States and proclaims the basic human and political rights of its people. From the interpretation and elaboration of those words in over 500 volumes of Supreme Court cases comes the constitutional law that structures our government and defines our individual relationship to that government. This book fills the need for an account of that law free from legal jargon and clear enough to inform the educated layperson, yet which does not condescend or slight critical nuance, so that its judgments and analyses will engage students, practitioners, judges, and scholars.

Taking the reader up to and through such controversial recent Supreme Court decisions as the Texas sodomy case and the University of Michigan affirmative action case, Charles Fried sets out to make sense of the main topics of constitutional law: the nature of doctrine, federalism, separation of powers, freedom of expression, religion, liberty, and equality.

Fried draws on his knowledge as a teacher and scholar, and on his unique experience as a practitioner before the Supreme Court, a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, and Solicitor General of the United States to offer an evenhanded account not only of the substance of constitutional law, but of its texture and underlying themes. His book firmly draws the reader into the heart of today's constitutional battles. He understands what moves today's Court and that understanding illuminates his analyses.


  • Charles Fried has been, by turns, advocate, judge and scholar in the field of constitutional law. He has now given us a wonderful book on the subject, a work of sparkling intelligence and moral maturity. Fried believes in the possibility of constitutional doctrine, in the careful and reasoned elaboration of constitutional principles over time. For those who think that the work of the Supreme Court is just politics in disguise, Fried's defense of the rule of reason in doctrinal development is a compelling riposte. Never giving up on reason's ambition while remaining clear-eyed about its limits, Fried offers a guide and model for those who hope to understand the work of the Supreme Court as it strives patiently to say what the law is.

    —Anthony T. Kronman, Dean, Yale Law School


  • Charles Fried is Beneficial Professor of Law, Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 0-13/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press