John Manning, Bruce Bromley Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Coauthor of Hart and Wechsler's The Federal Courts and the Federal System (6th ed. 2009, with Fallon, Meltzer, and Shapiro) and Legislation and Regulation (2010, with Matthew C. Stephenson)
The challenge of constitutional adjudication is to make sense of a document that the polity cannot readily amend and that interpreters must apply many years—often centuries—after its adoption. Sometimes the Supreme Court deals with that problem by abstracting from the document’s specific rules, which were framed for another time, to the broader values that underlie them. For example, although the Constitution takes care to allocate power between state and federal sovereigns in rather specific ways—as, for example, through the Commerce Clause or the Duty of Tonnage Clause—the Supreme Court sometimes enforces a freestanding federalism doctrine that is not anchored to the understood meaning of any the specific clauses from which it is derived. The Constitution, however, does not adopt values in the abstract. It is, as famed constitutional historian Max Farrand called it, a “bundle of compromises.” Those compromises implement constitutional values in particular ways, with carefully specified limits. When the Court purports to enforce the freestanding “spirit” of the Constitution—including doctrines such as federalism, separation of powers, and the equality of the states—it ignores the reach and limits that constitutionmakers bargained for when they negotiated the specific “letter” of the law.
John F. Manning is Bruce Bromley Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. His areas of interest include administrative law, federal courts, constitutional law (separation of powers), and legislation (statutory interpretation). Professor Manning has coauthored two textbooks, Hart and Wechsler's The Federal Courts and the Federal System (6th ed. 2009, with Fallon, Meltzer, and Shapiro) and Legislation and Regulation (2010, with Matthew C. Stephenson), and written numerous law review articles. He served as a law clerk to Judge Robert H. Bork at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1985 and to Justice Antonin Scalia for the Supreme Court's 1988 term. Professor Manning graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College and received his J.D. from Harvard Law School.
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The Program in American Studies
The Bouton Law Lecture Fund