Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, by Justice John Paul Stevens

Eight stars

Having read both of his other tomes, I thought I ought to complete the trifecta by giving this short piece by former Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Associate Justice John Paul Stevens a read through. Stevens explores the US Constitution and some of the cases that came before the Court during his tenure to propose six amendments to the document that would tighten loopholes that have arisen. In the opening portion of the book, Stevens offers the reader some well-grounded history on the US Constitution and its amending formula, as well as how the numerous amendments to the document came to fruition. While Stevens explains that changes are by no means easy (nor should they be), there are some essential elements that should be considered now, as the 21st century is in full swing. Stevens explores the power of federalism in the United States, where SCOTUS and Congress have repeatedly fallen to the limits of the Constitution during discussions of state sovereignty on certain issues of national importance. Poignantly, Stevens also dives head deep into the issue of political gerrymandering and how the Courts (and legislative bodies) use this form of election-getting to work in their favour, to the detriment of the party out of power. Hardline discussion about election financing and gun control—two issues that have become major thorns—receive succinct discussion and shows just how passionate Stevens is on the matter. Using case law and decisions of the Court, as well as some superbly placed history, Stevens drives home the point of the need for this six amendments, as well as offering actual wording that could be used to remedy the issue at hand. From the mind of a great Associate Justice comes the arguments that are both well founded and provoking. Recommended to those who love constitutional discussions, particularly the reader who has an interest in SCOTUS decisions.

It was almost by accident that I began my binge reading of John Paul Stevens and his work, when a friend on Goodreads recommended his recent judicial memoirs. I was hooked from the opening pages and devoured the book, following it up with the memoir around the five Chief Justices with whom Stevens had a relationship. Now, able to sink my teeth into this piece, I can see just how well-rounded Stevens remains, even off the bench. His arguments are sound and his delivery is such that the reader wants to learn a little more. Those who read all three books will see some of the same anecdotes, supporting one another on this long and tumultuous legal journey. I was impressed with how powerfully Stevens could be in a succinct manner. His knowledge and ability to ‘water down’ the discussion allows laypeople to engage and happily feel a sense of understanding when it comes to matters of constitutional amendments. Will any of these amendments see the light of day or become part of the US Constitution? There is no telling, though the impetus would have to be there, as well as a grounded Executive that does not try to Tweet-monger. So… maybe after 2020.

Kudos, Justice Stevens, for yet another impressive piece of work. I hope others trip upon the three books you have penned and realize how fortunate they would be to learn from you.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: