Professor’s book eyes at court’s impact on Congress

PULLMAN — The impact of U.S. Supreme Court decisions on legislation passed by the U.S. Congress is the major focus of a soon-to-be-released book by J. Mitchell Pickerill, assistant professor of political science at Washington State University.

Scheduled for a July 1 release by Duke University Press, “Constitutional Deliberation in Congress” presents a thorough examination of how anticipating and responding to high court rulings prompts constitutional debate by the nation’s lawmakers.

William N. Eskridge Jr., professor of jurisprudence at Yale Law School, said Pickerill’s latest work is “well worth reading by lawyers as well as by students of American government.”

Pickerill combines legislative histories, extensive empirical findings and interviews with current and former members of Congress, congressional staff and others in the new book. He examines data related to all federal legislation struck down by the Supreme Court from the beginning of the Warren Court in 1953 through the 1996-97 term of the Rehnquist Court.

Looking at the history of prior Congressional actions – such as the Child Labor Act (1916), the Civil Rights Act (1965), the Gun-Free School Zones Act (1990) and the Brady Bill (1994) – he demonstrates how congressional legislation is shaped by the possibility of judicial review. The book examines Supreme Court cases and compares congressional debates over constitutional issues on key pieces of congressional legislation.

“Constitutional Deliberation in Congress” brings to light important new evidence regarding how congress and the court relate to one another in constitutional cases, and it provides the first high-quality and systematic examination of how congress responds to judicial invalidations of its legislation,”  Keith Whittington, associate professor of politics at  Princeton University, said of the new book.

”Drawing from case studies of several federal statutes invalidated by the supreme court, Mitch Pickerill thoughtfully suggests that serious constitutional discourse in the legislature is unlikely unless the court continues to exercise its power of judicial review. I found his argumentation persuasive as well as informative,” Eskridge said.

Pickerill received a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 2000 and a law degree from the Indiana University School of Law in 1991. He joined the faculty of WSU in 2001 and specializes in constitutional law, administrative law, civil liberties, judicial process, jurisprudence and legal theory.

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