Gerald Russello

Gerald J. Russello is author of The Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk (University of Missouri Press).

The Right Unwritten Constitution

Historical Document US Constitution with America Flag

Beneath its cool blue cover, Constitutional Morality and the Rise of Quasi-Law is an explosive book. The thesis of coauthors Bruce Frohnen and George W. Carey is that constitutional government as was once known in the United States is in fact a memory.

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Some Dissents Are More Equal Than Others

U.S. Supreme Court

Anyone who has clerked for an appellate judge knows that assisting in writing a dissent is one of the better parts of the job. While a majority opinion, however important it is, almost always involves compromise, a dissenting opinion allows a judge the full range of rhetorical devices, unhindered by the need to cobble together a majority or to convince colleagues to vote the same way.

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The Conservative Mind at 60: Russell Kirk’s Unwritten Constitutionalism

Kirk 3

In his great work, The American Republic, written in 1866, the American Catholic political writer Orestes Brownson – who ranks with Calhoun and John Adams as among the finest political minds America has produced, and who still remains somewhat neglected – wrote this about the nation’s political order. The constitution of the United States is twofold, written and unwritten, the constitution of the people and the constitution of the government. The written constitution is simply a law ordained by the nation or people instituting and organizing the government; the unwritten constitution is the real or actual constitution of the people as a…

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Reason and the Unfounded Constitution

In Gerald Russello’s account of Russell Kirk’s Constitutional theory, he conscisely outlines Kirk’s thought on that central concern for conservatives and indeed for all Americans.  As Kirk understood, the Constitution is a great Fact of American experience, whose importance cannot be overlooked; and yet, as any historian could tell us, the trouble with facts is…

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Natural Law, Natural Rights, and the Law of Freedom

It is a great honor to be asked to comment on Gerald Russello’s excellent piece.  A man whose scholarship and wisdom is as high as his integrity is deep, Russello has pioneered much in his own writing and editing and in his profound grasp of the law.  Almost every topic I’ve explored academically has proudly…

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Russell Kirk’s Founders and the Unwritten Constitution

2013 is the 60th year since Regnery Publishing brought Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind to the reading public.  The book helped transform modern American politics and inform many emerging conservative minds. When I was interning in Washington, DC more than twenty years ago, I remember answering a question by saying that I had a skeletal…

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Partisan Shot

With a title like The Partisan, we should know what to expect.  John Jenkins’s biography on the late Chief Justice loses no chance to paint him in the worst possible light.  Rehnquist is a nihilist, dogmatic, cold, distant, a racist, not a hard worker, and dangerously bound to a desiccated judicial philosophy, unless its results would contradict his desired policy objectives, in which case any legal theory will do. This gives the flavor, taken almost at random:  “Rehnquist’s judicial philosophy was nihilistic to its core, disrespectful of precedent and dismissive of social, economic, and political institutions that did not comport with…

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Searching for Popular Sovereignty

Judicial Monarchs

Judicial Monarchs:  Court Power and the Case for Restoring Popular Sovereignty in the United States might be placed alongside the recent tome by Justice Stephen Breyer, Making Our Democracy Work, each representing a strand of the two major ways of thinking abut the power of judicial review.  Breyer represents what may be called the judicial supremacist view, the view that is most deeply entrenched among the judicial and legal elites.  William Watkins represents what may be called the coordinated powers approach, an older but, since the early twentieth century, less influential approach. On the Breyer view, the courts, especially the Supreme Court,…

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Judicial Democracy

Making Our Democracy WorkThe problem with Justice Breyer’s recent book begins at the second sentence: “The Constitution’s framers and history itself have made the Court the ultimate arbiter of the Constitution’s meaning as well as the source of answers to as multitude of questions about how this vast, complex country will be governed.”