Positive Reviews for Tara Smith’s Latest Book

Following its publication last year, reviews have begun to appear with quite favorable assessments of Tara Smith’s Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System. Smith is professor of philosophy and BB&T Chair for the Study of Objectivism at the University of Texas at Austin.

Evan Bernick, assistant director of the Center for Judicial Engagement at the Institute for Justice, wrote a lengthy review titled “Reason’s Republic” (forthcoming in New York University’s Journal of Law & Liberty and available on the Social Science Research Network at this link). Bernick’s review covers Smith’s book in depth, addresses potential objections, and sets the book in legal and scholarly context. “Smith has accomplished the remarkable feat of providing an account of judicial review that is novel, theoretically sound, and useful,” Bernick writes, adding that Smith’s book

stands out in a crowded field because of the boldness of its central claims and the elegance and persuasiveness of the arguments she advances in support of them. Smith contends that objectivity in the performance of judicial review is both possible and necessary — that judges can and must arrive at accurate knowledge of what our Constitution means and hold government officials to its terms.

One of the nation’s most widely read legal blogs, the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy, has recommended Bernick’s “Reason’s Republic” as a good introduction to Smith’s “important” book.

Bernick published a much shorter review, “Taming the Law’s Coercion,” at the Library of Law and Liberty’s online book review page, citing Smith’s book as noteworthy “owing to its focus on the role of epistemology and political philosophy — the Constitution’s political philosophy — in constitutional interpretation and her incisive criticism of the jurisprudential status quo.”

Another review, “Thinking Fundamentally about Judicial Review,” penned by Texas trial lawyer Michael Mazzone, appeared in the journal Judicature, published by the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies. “By cutting straight to the core of objectivity and its place in a legal system,” Mazzone writes, “Smith lays fertile ground for assessing the arena’s major theories of judicial review, emerging ultimately with a theory of interpretation that solves the problems inherent in the current approaches.” Smith’s own approach, Mazzone states, “includes all of the positive aspects of the other methods of judicial review (transparency, consistency, fidelity to the law’s mission, etc.) while excluding all the negative aspects (subjectivism, irrelevant considerations, popular will, indeterminate and evolving law, etc.).” Mazzone also published a shorter review in The Houston Lawyer, the magazine of the Houston Bar Association.

Associate professor of philosophy Carrie-Ann Biondi of Marymount Manhattan College also published a favorable review in Reason Papers, singling out five of the book’s merits as “especially insightful”: “(1) explaining the objective nature of concept-formation, (2) articulating the moral value of the Rule of Law, (3) defending the U.S. Constitution over common law as the legal bedrock, (4) exposing the false dichotomies involved in five rival theories of judicial review, and (5) suggesting that the courts enforce one uniform standard of strict scrutiny.” Smith’s book, she concludes, contains “some astonishingly radical ideas that — if implemented — will revolutionize the field.”

Other resources providing background on Smith and her book include:

(Originally published on Objectivism: Who Needs It.)