Toward a Usable Past
Liberty Under State Constitutions

Edited by Paul Finkelman and Stephen E. Gottlieb


"Contain[s] much of interest, and [has] an appeal rather broader than [the] North American focus might suggest."
Legal History

"[A] fine collection of essays . . . The volume is accessible and provides an excellent starting place for an examination of state constitutional developments. It deserves a wide audience, and should serve to inspire further work on the constitutional past of the states."
American Journal of Legal History

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The United States Supreme Court's relegation of many rights to definition under state constitutional law, combined with the tendency of recent administrations to entrust the states with the task of preserving individual rights, is increasingly making state constitutions the arena where the battles to preserve the rights to life, liberty, property, due process, and equal protection of laws must be fought.

Ranging in time from the late 1700s to the late 1900s, Toward a Usable Past offers a series of case studies that examine the protection afforded individual rights by state constitutions and state constitutional law. As it explores the history of liberty at the state level, this volume also investigates the promise and risks of turning to state constitutions to guarantee and expand individual rights.

In this book, major scholars and legal practitioners discuss state protections of civil liberty, and ponder the contemporary implications of the state record. The cases examined cover topics ranging from religion in schools during the Federalist era to criminal justice in the late nineteenth century, from racial integration in Kansas before Brown v. Board of Education to legal battles over birth control in the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The introduction presents the historical and contemporary significance of the topic and traces the evolution of the federal constitutional law establishing the parameters of state regulation of individual rights.

Page count: 464 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $32.95

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Paul Finkelman is President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy at Albany Law School. He is the author of numerous books, including An Imperfect Union: Slavery, Federalism, and Comity and Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson. Stephen E. Gottlieb is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor at Albany Law School whose books include Morality Imposed: The Rehnquist Court and Liberty in America and Jurisprudence: Cases and Materials.