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Moore's book wins award as best on law and courts

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 09 - October 23, 1997

Constitutional Rights and the Powers of the People, a book by Wayne D. Moore, assistant professor of political science at Virginia Tech, has won the 1997 C. Herman Pritchett Award as the best book on law and courts published by a political scientist in 1996.
This year's competition was "especially spirited," according to Thomas G. Walker, chair of the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association. "Publishing houses and public-law scholars nominated an unusually large number of books, and the quality of entries was exceptionally strong," he said.
"Wayne Moore is asking fresh and interesting questions about what it means to participate in a constitutional regime based on the idea of popular sovereignty," said Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas Law School. "Almost necessarily, this involves going beyond simply analyzing what the Supreme Court does or says, as in his interesting analysis of Frederick Douglass. Anyone interested in American constitutionalism would benefit from this book."
Besides the antebellum period, Moore, who holds a J.D. from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. from Princeton University, looks at influential thinking from the founding period and examines precedents set during prominent controversies involving the establishment of a national bank, regulations of the economy, and efforts to limit sexual and reproductive choices. He explores issues raised by claims of state interpretive autonomy and models various dimensions of the constitutional order as a whole.
The committee that selected Moore's book as winner of the Pritchett Award said the book "exemplifies the distinctive contributions that political scientists can make to constitutional theory and practice. Unlike law professors, who are principally interested in expressing opinions about the validity of caselaw interpretations, Moore believes that the serious study of constitutionalism must encompass a wider array of institutional, and extra-institutional, practices, including the `ways that the people at large may play roles creating and sustaining constitutional norms.' He is also more interested in issues of constitutional design than the search for right answers." According to the committee, "Moore's work combines a clear moral vision with impeccable scholarship."
In analyzing constitutional structures and problems of constitutional meaning and authority with reference to principles of popular sovereignty and problems of practical politics, Moore explores relationships among competing conceptions of the constitutional order on issues such as the following: Who is included among the people? How are the people politically configured? How may the people assert their authority? And how do the constitutional prerogatives of the people relate to the powers and responsibilities of formal institutions of government?
Moore draws on a broad range of methodological approaches to achieve the multiple objectives of the book. He also uses original figures to map systematically basic constitutional structures. "Because of his originality, his rigorous and systematic presentation of his evidence, and his commitment to engaging practical issues of constitutional governance," the Award Committee wrote, "Moore has earned the distinction of having written the best book in public law by a political scientist in 1996."
"Those of us who inhabit the American constitutional order," said Walter F. Murphy, professor emeritus, Princeton University, of Moore's book, "have reason to be grateful."