Constitutional Dysfunction on Trial

Constitutional Dysfunction on Trial

Congressional Lawsuits and the Separation of Powers

Jasmine Farrier


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In an original assessment of all three branches, Jasmine Farrier reveals a new way in which the American federal system is broken. Turning away from the partisan narratives of everyday politics, Constitutional Dysfunction on Trial diagnoses the deeper and bipartisan nature of imbalance of power that undermines public deliberation and accountability, especially on war powers. By focusing on the lawsuits brought by Congressional members that challenge presidential unilateralism, Farrier provides a new diagnostic lens on the permanent institutional problems that have undermined the separation of powers system in the last five decades, across a diverse array of partisan and policy landscapes.

As each chapter demonstrates, member lawsuits are an outlet for frustrated members of both parties who cannot get their House and Senate colleagues to confront overweening presidential action through normal legislative processes. But these lawsuits often backfire – leaving Congress as an institution even more disadvantaged. Jasmine Farrier argues these suits are more symptoms of constitutional dysfunction than the cure. Constitutional Dysfunction on Trial shows federal judges will not and cannot restore the separation of powers system alone. Fifty years of congressional atrophy cannot be reversed in court.


Jasmine Farrier:

Jasmine Farrier is Chair and Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Louisville. She is author of Passing the Buck and Congressional Ambivalence.