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Repugnant Laws: Judicial Review of Acts of Congress from the Founding to the Present, Keith E. Whittington

Reviewed by Joshua Strayhorn

BUY

 

This book is a characteristically thoughtful and careful work. Its ambition is no less than to catalog and analyze every single case in which the U.S. Supreme Court has exercised judicial review of an act of Congress, dating back to the founding. To achieve this, Keith Whittington compiled his own data set on judicial review from scratch, using various historical sources, text search, and hand coding. This data set, available from the author’s website, will be a tremendous asset for judicial politics scholars, and, on its own, it is a major contribution to the field.

In Repugnant Laws, Whittington deploys these data to consider closely how the Supreme Court has made use of judicial review. The analysis is primarily qualitative, though it looks at aggregate statistics where appropriate and is structured chronologically. The book is engagingly written and would be suitable for assignment in undergraduate courses on judicial politics.

I found that the book provides a useful corrective to some of the standard narratives about the political history of the Supreme Court. For example, Chapter 3 examines the early years of the court prior to the civil war. Whittington argues forcefully against the standard interpretation that Marbury singlehandedly est

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