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Support Structures and Constitutional Change: Teles, Southworth, and the Conservative Legal Movement

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This essay reviews two recent works in political science on the American conservative legal movement: Steven M. Teles's The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law (2008) and Ann Southworth's Lawyers of the Right: Professionalizing the Conservative Coalition (2008). It examines these books in the context of a larger debate over the variables that best explain constitutional change in general and the recent “conservative counterrevolution” in Supreme Court jurisprudence in particular. It shows how these studies build on the scholarship of Charles Epp, who argued in The Rights Revolution (1998) that serious constitutional change requires not only the right cast of characters on the court, but also a strong “support structure” in the legal profession and civil society. Finally, it draws on the author's own research on the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy to illustrate some important avenues for further inquiry.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-4469.2011.01240.x

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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