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Constitutional Law for a Changing America

Constitutional Law for a Changing America
A Short Course

Eighth Edition

September 2020 | 816 pages | CQ Press
“Excellent balance of case excerpts and author explanation, highly appropriate for undergraduate students.”
—Dr. Wendy Brame, Briar Cliff University

Political factors influence judicial decisions. Arguments and input from lawyers and interest groups, the ebb and flow of public opinion, and especially the ideological and behavioral inclinations of the justices all combine to shape the development of constitutional doctrine. Drawing on political science as much as from legal studies, Constitutional Law for a Changing America: A Short Course helps students realize that Supreme Court cases are more than just legal names and citations. With meticulous revising, the authors streamline material while accounting for recent landmark cases and new scholarship.

Ideal for a one semester course, the Eighth Edition of A Short Course offers all the hallmarks of the Rights and Powers volumes in a more condensed format. Students and instructors benefit from the online Con Law Resource Center which houses the supplemental case archive, links to CQ Press reference materials, a moot court simulation, instructor resources, and more.

Attention Instructors! Use the following bundle ISBN to ensure your students have FREE access to the regularly updated resource center featuring over 100 excerpted cases.

Get FREE access to online resources—use bundle ISBN: 978-1-0718-3225-7

Included with this title:

The password-protected Instructor Resource Site (formally known as SAGE Edge)
offers access to all text-specific resources, including a test bank and editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides. Learn more.

Chronological Table of Cases
Tables, Figures, and Boxes
An Introduction to the U.S. Constitution
The Road to the U.S. Constitution

Underlying Principles of the Constitution

CHAPTER 1. The Living Constitution
The Amendment Process

Constitutional Change and the Supreme Court

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 2. Understanding the U.S. Supreme Court
Processing Supreme Court Cases

Supreme Court Decision Making: Legalism

Supreme Court Decision Making: Realism

Conducting Research on the Supreme Court

Annotated Readings

Structuring the Federal System
Origins of the Separation of Powers/Checks and Balances System

Separation of Powers and the Constitution

CHAPTER 3. The Judiciary
Establishment of the Federal Judiciary

Judicial Review

Constraints on Judicial Power

Constraints on Judicial Power and the Separation of Powers System

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 4. The Legislature
Article I: Historical Overview

Members of Congress: Qualifications, Immunity, and Discipline

The Sources and Scope of Legislative Powers

Congress and the Separation of Powers

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 5. The Executive
The Structure of the Presidency

Constitutional Authority of the President

The Domestic Powers of the President

Powers over Foreign Affairs

Annotated Readings

Allocating Government Power
The Framers and Federalism

The Tenth and Eleventh Amendments

CHAPTER 6. Federalism
Federal Power, State Sovereignty, and the Tenth Amendment

The Post–Civil War Era and the Return of Dual Federalism

The (Re)Emergence of National Supremacy: Cooperative Federalism

Return of (a Milder Form of) Dual Federalism

The Eleventh Amendment

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 7. The Commerce Power
Foundations of the Commerce Power

Attempts to Define the Commerce Power in the Wake of the Industrial Revolution

The Supreme Court and the New Deal

The Era of Expansive Commerce Clause Jurisprudence

Limits on the Commerce Power: The Republican Court Era

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 8. The Power to Tax and Spend
The Constitutional Power to Tax and Spend

Direct Taxes and the Power to Tax Income

Intergovernmental Tax Immunity

Taxation as a Regulatory Power

Taxing and Spending for the General Welfare

Annotated Readings

Economic Liberties and Individual Rights
CHAPTER 9. The Contract Clause
The Framers and the Contract Clause

John Marshall and the Contract Clause

The Decline of the Contract Clause

Modern Applications of the Contract Clause

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 10. Economic Substantive Due Process
The Development of Substantive Due Process

The Roller-Coaster Ride of Substantive Due Process: 1898–1923

The Heyday of Substantive Due Process: 1923–1936

The Depression, the New Deal, and the Decline of Economic Substantive Due Process

Substantive Due Process: Contemporary Relevance

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 11. The Takings Clause
Protecting Private Property from Government Seizure

What Constitutes a Taking?

Public Use Requirement

What Is Just Compensation?

Annotated Readings

Approaching Civil Liberties
CHAPTER 12. Religion: Exercise and Establishment
Free Exercise of Religion

Religious Establishment

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 13. Freedom of Speech, Assembly, and Association
Regulations of the Content of Speech: Punishing Harmful Ideas

Regulations of the Context of Speech: Time, Place, and Manner Restrictions

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 14. Freedom of the Press
Prior Restraint

News Gathering and Special Rights

The Boundaries of Free Press: Libel, Obscenity, and Emerging Areas of Government Concern

Regulating the Internet

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 15. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Initial Interpretations

The Second Amendment Revisited

Heller and the States

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 16. The Right to Privacy
The Right to Privacy: Foundations

Reproductive Freedom and the Right to Privacy: Abortion

Private Activities and the Application of Griswold

Annotated Readings

The Criminal Justice System and Constitutional Rights
Overview of the Criminal Justice System

Trends in Supreme Court Decision Making

CHAPTER 17. Investigations and Evidence
Searches and Seizures

The Fifth Amendment and Self-Incrimination

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 18. Attorneys, Trials, and Punishments
The Right to Counsel

Fair Trials

Trial Proceedings

Sentencing and the Eighth Amendment

Posttrial Stages

Annotated Readings

Civil Rights and the Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment

The Fifteenth Amendment

CHAPTER 19. Discrimination
Race Discrimination and the Foundations of Equal Protection

Modern-Day Treatment of Equal Protection Claims

Strict Scrutiny and Claims of Race Discrimination

Heightened Scrutiny and Claims of Gender Discrimination

Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

Discrimination Based on Economic Status

Annotated Readings

CHAPTER 20. Voting and Representation
Voting Rights

Contemporary Restrictions on the Right to Vote

Election Campaign Regulation

Political Representation

The 2000 Presidential Election

Annotated Readings

Reference Material
Constitution of the United States

The Justices


Online Case Archive List

Case Index
Subject Index
About the Authors


Instructor Resource Center

Take your constitutional law class beyond the book with the regularly updated SAGE Edge Con Law Resource Center, featuring more than 100 excerpted, supplemental cases referenced in the commentary of the Constitutional Law for a Changing America volumes. The authors have excerpted each case in the same format as those in the text, featuring the justices’ votes, a summary of case facts, and a carefully edited version of the justices’ opinions.

Online resources included with this text

The online resources for your text are available via the password-protected Instructor Resource Site, which offers access to all text-specific resources, including a test bank and editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides.
Student Resource Center

The open-access Student Study Site makes it easy for students to maximize their study time, anywhere, anytime. It offers flashcards that strengthen understanding of key terms and concepts, as well as learning objectives that reinforce the most important material.

For additional information, custom options, or to request a personalized walkthrough of these resources, please contact your sales representative.

“Excellent balance of case excerpts and author explanation, highly appropriate for undergraduate students.”

Dr. Wendy Brame
Briar Cliff University

“This textbook achieves the difficult task of being both accessible and thorough.”

Eric Schwartz
Hagerstown Community College

This textbook was used by my predecessor so naturally I was inclined to adopt it. After reading the description of the course and reviewing this eighth edition, I find that this textbook is more than adequate for this class and I look forward to teaching my students from it.

Autumn Walden
Social Behavioral Science Div, Elmira College
January 1, 2022

Going back to this text as it is accessible and has a positive track record.

Professor Michael Gold-Biss
Political Science, North Hennepin Cmty College
August 4, 2021

Its a good text for undergrads

Dr Louise Stanton
Political Science, New Jersey City University
January 25, 2021
Key features
  • New co-author, Kevin T. McGuire of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, is a meticulous U.S Supreme Court scholar, bringing with him years of experience, exquisite writing style, and deep expertise in all topics covered in Constitutional Law for a Changing America.

  • Additional case excerpts have been added The Constitutional Law for a Changing America Resource Center. The archive allows instructors to use additional cases or to substitute favorite cases for those that appear in the printed text. The archive also provides an efficient source of material for students who want to read more deeply into the law and for instructors who wish to direct their students to an easily accessible information source for assignments.

  • Each chapter has been thoroughly updated to include important opinions handed down during the Roberts Court era. Since Chief Justice John Roberts took office in 2005, the Court has taken up many pressing issues of the day, including, health care, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, voting rights, and more.

  • Refreshed aftermath boxes provide students with updates of historically crucial cases. In addition to providing human interest material, they lead to interesting discussions about the Court’s impact on the lives of ordinary Americans—demonstrating to students that Supreme Court cases are more than merely legal names and citations; they involve real people involved in real disputes.



  • Carefully condensed from the Rights and Powers volumes, A Short Course fits the needs for those who teach institutional powers, civil liberties, rights, and justice in a single academic term and those who prefer a shorter core text.

  • The authors approach constitutional law from a social science perspective, demonstrating how many forces—not just legal factors—influence the development of the law.

  • Throughout A Short Course, the authors highlight how relevant political, historical, economic, and social events; personnel changes on the Court; interest groups; and even public opinion may have affected the justices’ decisions, in addition to traditional legal considerations, such as precedent, text, and history.

  • Inclusion of the latest scholarship in the fields of both political science and legal studies helps this book to remain the best political science Constitutional Law textbook on the market.

  • A regularly updated electronic archive includes over 100 supplemental Supreme Court decisions.

  • The authors are known for fastidious revising and streamlining of decisions. A recipient of 12 grants from the National Science Foundation for her work on law and legal institutions, Epstein has authored or co-authored over 100 articles and essays, as well as 15 books, and received the Teaching and Mentoring Award from the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association. Additionally, Thomas G. Walker is the Goodrich C. White Professor of Political Science at Emory University and co-author of A Court Divided, which won the V. O. Key, Jr. Award for the best book on southern politics.

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