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Constitutional Dysfunction on TrialConstitutional Dysfunction on Trial

Congressional Lawsuits and the Separation of Powers

Jasmine Farrier

Narrated by Colleen Patrick

Book published by Cornell University Press

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 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.


“Jasmine Farrier has produced a work of the highest quality, one that will be influential on the most significant issues involved in national government powers.”

—Richard Pious, Barnard College, author of Why Presidents Fail

“Jasmine Farrier is an established scholar with a well-deserved reputation for excellent work and creative approaches to long-standing problems: this book is no exception, and will make an important contribution by asking why the courts can't be part of the discussion on unrestrained presidential power.”

—Chris Edelson, American University, author of Power without Constraint

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