John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010 after serving as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for thirty-four years, , has written an extensive review of Professor Sanford Levinson’s latest book, Framed: America’s Fifty-one Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance (Oxford University Press, 2012), in the October 11, 2012, edition of The New York Review of Books. Stevens concludes his review by describing Framed as “a series of thoughtful and interesting essays discussing the strengths and weaknesses of various structures established by our Constitution. The book offers an enlightening comparison of those structures with those adopted by states and foreign governments in dealing with similar issues. Many may disagree with Levinson’s arguments, but they will have to think hard about why they disagree.” The book is, he writes, “well worth reading.”
Stevens examines many of Levinson’s particular arguments in detail, including his criticisms of the structure of political representation, and his discussions of the compromises due to the existence of slavery at the time of the framing of the Constitution, the electoral college, the Constitution’s uncertainty over what to do in face of a severe disaster or crisis, life tenure of judges, and the lack of diversity on the Supreme Court. He also addresses, even if he disagrees with, Levinson’s call for a new constitutional convention.
Levinson holds the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood Jr. Centennial Chair at the Law School and is also a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to Framed, he has also written Constitutional Faith; Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies; Wrestling With Diversity; and Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It), in addition to editing or coediting several other books. He has also written more than 360 articles in both professional and popular journals and newspapers, including a widely-commented upon op-ed for the New York Times, “Our Imbecilic Constitution.”