January 14, 2011
Nationally prominent Yale law professor William Eskridge and New York University law professor John Ferejohn discussed their new book, A Republic of Statutes: The New American Constitution, at an on-campus forum on January 12, 2011.
The authors defended the theory advanced in their book that our democracy advances by statutes that supplement or even supplant the written Constitution, and that the founding document only provides a vision in the light of societal changes.
"The nature of society is changing and people's values change," said Ferejohn, who stressed the evolution of civil rights and the growth of so-called social rights in this country.
"Our book is written by liberals; well, I guess we're out of the closet," joked Eskridge, "but it's a must-read for conservatives who want to understand how - and why - our government has evolved in a particular direction."
McGeorge Professors Brian Slocum and Leslie Jacobs served as panel commentators, and each praised the book's originality while challenging some of its precepts. Jacobs, a prolific constitutional law scholar in her own right, delved into the constitutional law issues raised in the book. Slocum argued that the authors' approach to statutory interpretation, which focuses on statutory purpose and deliberation by governmental actors such as agencies, is compelling and superior to the approach favored by textualists. However, he cautioned that no approach to statutory interpretation can be entirely policy-based, and that Eskridge and Ferejohn's theory underappreciates the need for a theory of language interpretation.
The panel discussion was co-sponsored by the law school's Capital Center for Law & Policy, the McGeorge Faculty Development Committee, and the Sacramento Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society.
The book, published by Yale University Press, is available on-line and at most academic bookstores.