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Judicial Sovereignty: The Legacy of the Rehnquist Court

17 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2003  

E. Thomas Sullivan

University of Vermont


This review of John Noonan's book applauds the author for his careful, penetrating analysis of the Rehnquist Court's federalism theme. According to Narrowing the Nation's Power, the Rehnquist Court has rewritten the Constitution to advance federalism beyond anything recognizable in history. While Judge Noonan did not intend his book to be a close doctrinal analysis of all the Supreme Court's federalism cases in the past ten years, this review of the book brands the Court's work as "revisionism." This review asserts that the Supreme Court is engaged in judicial activism as it rewrites history in order to shift power back to the states at the expense of democratic principles and congressional prerogatives. The review goes beyond Judge Noonan's book by also analyzing Tenth Amendment cases as part of the larger rearticulation of federalism as an overarching constitutional and political doctrine. The review concludes that "while judicial review may have been the means to achieve the Court's federalism goals of strengthening the rights of others at the expense of Congress, ultimately the larger judicial and political shift, as ably demonstrated by Judge Noonan, has been structured - judicial supremacy over Congress' sovereignty and democratic values."

Suggested Citation

Sullivan, E. Thomas, Judicial Sovereignty: The Legacy of the Rehnquist Court. Constitutional Commentary, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

E. Thomas Sullivan (Contact Author)

University of Vermont ( email )

85 South Prospect Street
344-353 Waterman Building
Burlington, VT 05405
United States
8026567878 (Phone)
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