Laboratory of Justice: The Supreme Court's 200-Year Struggle to Integrate Science and the Law

by David L. Faigman (Author)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
Faigman, a professor at the University of California-Hastings College of the
Law, examines the intersection of law and science in the constitutional rulings
of the Supreme Court. For Faigman, the Constitution is a charter defining rights
and obligations in broad terms, but the charter remains open to new
interpretations as conditions change. Science certainly changes over time, and
where legal decisions are based on science, they too must adapt as new science
emerges and outmoded theories are discarded. Faigman shows how this evolutionary
process occurs, detailing, for example, how 19th-century beliefs about racial
hierarchies (the 1857 Dred Scott decision) gave way to a revised racial theory
under which separate but equal public facilities were approved (in Plessy,
1892). A later generation of social scientists demonstrated how separate schools
profoundly harmed black school children, and that data supported a new
constitutional result in Brown v. Board of Education Still more recent social
science comes before the Court regularly in its affirmative action cases. In
addition to science bearing on race, the author considers many other points at
which science has influenced constitutional law, including theories of eugenics
once advanced to justify compulsory sterilization, and the biology of gestation
underlying Roe v. Wade Throughout, Faigman traces the growing receptivity of the
Court to empirical data and also shows how unsystematic, even haphazard, the
process is for placing such facts before the Court. This insightful and
accessible study throws light on how new ways of understanding the world produce
new readings of our Constitution.

From Booklist
Legal scholar Faigman offers an interesting juxtaposition of politics and
science from which to view the U.S. Constitution and American law. He begins by
noting that science loves change while law loves the status quo. He then
examines several legal positions that have been taken, viewing the Constitution
from the perspective of "the science of the times." Among the cases he examines
are the Dred Scott decision and how it was influenced by "scientific" knowledge
of race at the time, in contrast to the Brown v. Board of Education decision
nearly a century later. Notions about reproduction influenced the 1973 Roe v.
wade decision, and changes in modern medical technology are certain to influence
future decisions challenging Roe. Faigman also examines the tension, from the
beginning until now, between those who want a limited role for federal
government and more power for the states and those who favor a strong national
government. An absorbing, highly accessible look at American law and how
interpretations of the Constitution are grounded in the knowledge of the time.

Product Details

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (June 3, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805072748



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