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04/08/2018

$50,000 Cooley Book Prize to Lawson & Seidman
Michael Ramsey

At Volokh Conspiracy, an announcement from Randy Barnett:

I am very pleased to announce that, on April 20th, the Georgetown Center for the Constitution will award its first annual Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize of $50,000 to honor a book that makes an important contribution to our understanding of the Constitution. The first recipients will be professors Gary Lawson (Boston University School of Law) and Guy Seidman (IDC Herzliya—Radzyner School of Law) for their book, A Great Power of Attorney: Understanding the Fiduciary Constitution (Kansas University Press, 2017), which explores the type of legal document that is the Constitution and how this affects the powers it grants to government officials and the duties they owe to the public.

(Thanks to Seth Barrett Tillman for the pointer).

Here is the book description from Amazon:

What kind of document is the United States Constitution and how does that characterization affect its meaning? Those questions are seemingly foundational for the entire enterprise of constitutional theory, but they are strangely under-examined. Legal scholars Gary Lawson and Guy Seidman propose that the Constitution, for purposes of interpretation, is a kind of fiduciary, or agency, instrument. The founding generation often spoke of the Constitution as a fiduciary document—or as a “great power of attorney,” in the words of founding-era legal giant James Iredell. Viewed against the background of fiduciary legal and political theory, which would have been familiar to the founding generation from both its education and its experience, the Constitution is best read as granting limited powers to the national government, as an agent, to manage some portion of the affairs of “We the People” and its “posterity.” What follows from this particular conception of the Constitution—and is of greater importance—is the question of whether, and how much and in what ways, the discretion of governmental agents in exercising those constitutionally granted powers is also limited by background norms of fiduciary obligation. Those norms, the authors remind us, include duties of loyalty, care, impartiality, and personal exercise. In the context of the Constitution, this has implications for everything from non-delegation to equal protection to so-called substantive due process, as well as for the scope of any implied powers claimed by the national government.

In mapping out what these imperatives might mean—such as limited discretionary power, limited implied powers, a need to engage in fair dealing with all parties, and an obligation to serve at all times the interests of the Constitution's beneficiaries—Lawson and Seidman offer a clearer picture of the original design for a limited government.

Congratulations to Professors Lawson and Seidman!