Sanford Levinson

Visiting Professor of Law

Fall 2017

Langdell Library 335

617-495-3184

Assistant: Isaac Moore / 617-496-1760

Biography

Sanford Levinson, who holds the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law, joined the University of Texas Law School in 1980. Previously a member of the Department of Politics at Princeton University, he is also a Professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas. The author of over 350 articles and book reviews in professional and popular journals--and a regular contributor to the popular blog Balkinization--Levinson is also the author of four books: Constitutional Faith (1988, winner of the Scribes Award); Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies (1998); Wrestling With Diversity (2003); and, most recently, Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It)(2006); and, most recently, Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance (2012). Edited or co-edited books include a leading constitutional law casebook, Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking (5th ed. 2006, with Paul Brest, Jack Balkin, Akhil Amar, and Reva Siegel); Reading Law and Literature: A Hermeneutic Reader (1988, with Steven Mallioux); Responding to Imperfection: The Theory and Practice of Constitutional Amendment (1995); Constitutional Stupidities, Constitutional Tragedies (1998, with William Eskridge); Legal Canons (2000, with Jack Balkin); The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion (2005, with Batholomew Sparrow); and Torture: A Collection (2004, revised paperback edition, 2006), which includes reflections on the morality, law, and politics of torture from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association in 2010. He has been a visiting faculty member of the Boston University, Georgetown, Harvard, New York University, and Yale law schools in the United States and has taught abroad in programs of law in London; Paris; Jerusalem; Auckland, New Zealand; and Melbourne, Australia. He was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1985-86 and a Member of the Ethics in the Professions Program at Harvard in 1991-92. He is also affiliated with the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jewish Philosophy in Jerusalem. A member of the American Law Institute, Levinson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001. He is married to Cynthia Y. Levinson, a writer of children's literature, and has two children, Meira, a member of the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (after teaching in the Atlanta and Boston public school systems), and Rachel, a lawyer with the Brennan Center in Washington, D.C.

Areas of Interest

Sanford V. Levinson, An Argument Open to All: Reading "The Federalist" in the 21st Century (Yale Univ. Press 2015).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Constitutional Law
Sub-Categories:
Constitutional History
,
Law & Political Theory
Type: Book
Abstract
"In An Argument Open to All, renowned legal scholar Sanford Levinson takes a novel approach to what is perhaps America's most famous political tract. Rather than concern himself with the authors as historical figures, or how The Federalist helps us understand the original intent of the framers of the Constitution, Levinson examines each essay for the political wisdom it can offer us today. In eighty-five short essays, each keyed to a different essay in The Federalist, he considers such questions as whether present generations can rethink their constitutional arrangements; how much effort we should exert to preserve America's traditional culture; and whether The Federalist's arguments even suggest the desirability of world government"
Sanford V. Levinson, Framed: America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance (Oxford Univ. Press 2012).
Categories:
Constitutional Law
Sub-Categories:
Constitutional History
Type: Book
Abstract
In Framed, Levinson challenges our belief that the most important features of our constitutions concern what rights they protect. Instead, he focuses on the fundamental procedures of governance such as congressional bicameralism; the selection of the President by the electoral college, or the dimensions of the President's veto power--not to mention the near impossibility of amending the United States Constitution. These seemingly "settled" and "hardwired" structures contribute to the now almost universally recognized "dysfunctionality" of American politics. Levinson argues that we should stop treating the United States Constitution as uniquely exemplifying the American constitutional tradition. We should be aware of the 50 state constitutions, often interestingly different--and perhaps better--than the national model. Many states have updated their constitutions by frequent amendment or by complete replacement via state constitutional conventions. California's ungovernable condition has prompted serious calls for a constitutional convention. This constant churn indicates that basic law often reaches the point where it fails and becomes obsolete. Given the experience of so many states, he writes, surely it is reasonable to believe that the U.S. Constitution merits its own updating. Whether we are concerned about making America more genuinely democratic or only about creating a system of government that can more effectively respond to contemporary challenges, we must confront the ways our constitutions, especially the United States Constitution, must be changed in fundamental ways.
Sanford V. Levinson, Constitutional Faith (Princeton Univ. Press 2d ed. 2011).
Categories:
Constitutional Law
Sub-Categories:
Constitutional History
,
Religion
Type: Book
Abstract
"This book examines the "constitutional faith" that has, since 1788, been a central component of American "civil religion." By taking seriously the parallel between wholehearted acceptance of the Constitution and religious faith, Sanford Levinson opens up a host of intriguing questions about what it means to be American. While some view the Constitution as the central component of an American religion that serves to unite the social order, Levinson maintains that its sacred role can result in conflict, fragmentation, and even war. To Levinson, the Constitution's value lies in the realm of the discourse it sustains: a uniquely American form of political rhetoric that allows citizens to grapple with every important public issue imaginable."
Sanford V. Levinson, Wrestling With Diversity (Duke Univ. Press 2003).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Constitutional Law
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Religion
,
Law & Public Policy
,
Religion & Law
Type: Book
Abstract
“Diversity” has become a mantra within discussions of university admissions policies and many other arenas of American society. In the essays collected here, Sanford Levinson, a leading scholar of constitutional law and American government, wrestles with various notions of diversity. He begins by explaining why he finds the concept to be almost useless as a genuine guide to public policy. Discussing affirmative action in university admissions, including the now famous University of Michigan Law School case, he argues both that there may be good reasons to use preferences—including race and ethnicity—and that these reasons have relatively little to do with any cogently developed theory of diversity. Distinguished by Levinson’s characteristic open-mindedness and willingness to tease out the full implications of various claims, each of these nine essays, written over the past decade, develops a case study focusing on a particular aspect of public life in a richly diverse, and sometimes bitterly divided, society. Although most discussions of diversity have focused on race and ethnicity, Levinson is particularly interested in religious diversity and its implications. Why, he asks, do arguments for racial and ethnic diversity not also counsel a concern to achieve religious diversity within a student body? He considers the propriety of judges drawing on their religious views in making legal decisions and the kinds of questions Senators should feel free to ask nominees to the federal judiciary who have proclaimed the importance of their religion in structuring their own lives. In exploring the sense in which Sandy Koufax can be said to be a “Jewish baseball player,” he engages in broad reflections on professional identity. He asks whether it is desirable, or even possible, to subordinate merely "personal" aspects of one’s identity—religion, political viewpoints, gender—to the impersonal demands of the professional role. Wrestling with Diversity is a powerful interrogation of the assumptions and contradictions underlying public life in a multicultural world.
Sanford Levinson, Installing the Insular Cases into the Canon of Constitutional Law, in Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, American Expansion, and the Constitution 121 (Christina Duffy Burnett & Burke Marshall eds., 2001).
Categories:
Constitutional Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Constitutional History
,
Legal Education
,
Legal Scholarship
Type: Book
Sanford V. Levinson, Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies (Duke Univ. Press 1998).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Arts & Entertainment Law
,
Politics & Political Theory
,
State & Local Government
Type: Book
Abstract
Is it “Stalinist” for a formerly communist country to tear down a statue of Stalin? Should the Confederate flag be allowed to fly over the South Carolina state capitol? Is it possible for America to honor General Custer and the Sioux Nation, Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln? Indeed, can a liberal, multicultural society memorialize anyone at all, or is it committed to a strict neutrality about the quality of the lives led by its citizens? In Written in Stone, legal scholar Sanford Levinson considers the tangled responses of ever-changing societies to the monuments and commemorations created by past regimes or outmoded cultural and political systems. Drawing on examples from Albania to Zimbabwe, from Moscow to Managua, and paying particular attention to examples throughout the American South, Levinson looks at social and legal arguments regarding the display, construction, modification, and destruction of public monuments. He asks what kinds of claims the past has on the present, particularly if the present is defined in dramatic opposition to its past values. In addition, he addresses the possibilities for responding to the use and abuse of public spaces and explores how a culture might memorialize its historical figures and events in ways that are beneficial to all its members. Written in Stone is a meditation on how national cultures have been or may yet be defined through the deployment of public monuments. It adds a thoughtful and crucial voice into debates surrounding historical accuracy and representation, and will be welcomed by the many readers concerned with such issues.
Sanford V. Levinson, Constitutional Faith (Princeton Univ. Press 1988).
Categories:
Constitutional Law
Sub-Categories:
Constitutional History
Type: Book

Education History

Current Courses

Course Catalog View

Langdell Library 335

617-495-3184

Assistant: Isaac Moore / 617-496-1760