Bruce Arnold Ackerman
August 19, 1943
|School or tradition||Liberalism|
|Notable works||We the People (1991–2014)|
Bruce Arnold Ackerman (born 1943) is an American constitutional law scholar. He is a Sterling Professor at Yale Law School. In 2010, he was named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of top global thinkers. Ackerman was also among the unranked bottom 40 in the 2020 Prospect list of the top 50 thinkers for the COVID-19 era: “[Defenders of liberal democracy] need to swot up on how constitutions can go wrong—and right. Bruce Ackerman, a Yale professor who’s just as informed on De Gaulle, Mandela and Wałesa as he is on America’s founders, is a sure guide. His ‘popular sovereignty initiative’ to rationalise the process for amending the US constitution could put principled reformers back on the front foot.”
Born on August 19, 1943, Ackerman graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University in 1964 and Bachelor of Laws degree from Yale Law School in 1967. He clerked for US Court of Appeals Judge Henry J. Friendly from 1967 to 1968, and then for US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II from 1968 to 1969.
Ackerman joined the faculty of University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1969. He was a Professor at Yale University from 1974 to 1982 and at Columbia University from 1982 to 1987. Since 1987 Ackerman has been the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale. He teaches classes at Yale on the concepts of justice and on his theories of constitutional transformation (i.e., the Constitution of the Founders was transformed by the Civil War/Reconstruction and the New Deal). His wife, Susan Rose-Ackerman, is also a professor at Yale Law School who teaches classes on administrative law. Their son, John M. Ackerman, is also an academic who lives and works in Mexico. Their daughter, Sybil Ackerman-Munson is an environmentalist in Portland, Oregon. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1986. He is also a Commander of the Order of Merit of the French Republic.
Ackerman is listed as counsel in US Army Captain Nathan Michael Smith's lawsuit against President Barack Obama. The lawsuit asserts five counts against the President: that Operation Inherent Resolve violates the War Powers Resolution, that the Constitution's Take Care Clause requires the President to publish a sustained legal justification of his actions, that the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists does not authorize the operation against ISIS, that the Iraq Resolution does not authorize the operation in Iraq, and that the Commander in Chief clause does not allow the President to authorize the operation. Captain Smith’s attorneys allege he has standing to sue because he will be personally liable for any damages he inflicts in an illegal war. The White House responded that the lawsuit raises "legitimate questions". After the district court dismissed the lawsuit as a political question, Ackerman appealed.
Criticism of judicial review
Sandrine Baume identified Bruce Ackerman as a leading critic of the "compatibility of judicial review with the very principles of democracy," in contrast to writers like John Hart Ely and Ronald Dworkin. For his position as documented by Baume, Ackerman was joined in his opinion about judicial review by Larry Kramer and Mark Tushnet as the main proponents of the idea that judicial review should be strongly limited and that the Constitution should be returned "to the people."
That reading by Baume of Ackerman fails to account for Ackerman's many arguments for judicial review in a democratic constitution, such as his Storrs Lecture, when he noted that judicial review "is part of a larger theme that distinguishes the American Constitution from other, less durable, frameworks for liberal democracy." As one of three principles of the economy of virtue, Ackerman sees a constitutional design for judicial review "that gives judges special incentives to uphold the integrity of earlier constitutional solutions against the pulling and hauling of normal politics." Ackerman has refined his approach but still asserts, "I refuse to join in the general retreat from judicial review that characterizes the contemporary work of many liberal constitutionalists."
He is the author of fifteen books and more than eighty articles. His interests cover constitutional theory, political philosophy, comparative law and politics, law and economics, American constitutional history, the environment, modern economy and social justice.
His works include:
- 1980: Social Justice in the Liberal State (ISBN 9780300024395)
- 1991: We the People, Volume 1, Foundations (ISBN 9780674948419)
- 1995: Is NAFTA Constitutional?, with David Golove (ISBN 9780674467125)
- 1998: We the People, Volume 2, Transformations (ISBN 9780674003972)
- 1999: The Stakeholder Society, with Anne Alstott (ISBN 9780300078268)
- 2002: Voting with Dollars, with Ian Ayres (ISBN 9780300127010)
- 2005: The Failure of the Founding Fathers (ISBN 9780674023956)
- 2006: Before the Next Attack: Preserving Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism
- 2010: The Decline and Fall of the American Republic (ISBN 9780674057036)
- 2014: We the People, Volume 3: The Civil Rights Revolution (ISBN 9780674050297)
- 2018: Revolutionary Constitutions: Charismatic Leadership and the Rule of Law (ISBN 9780674970687)
We the People: Foundations is best known for its forceful argument that the "switch in time", whereby a particular member of the US Supreme Court changed his judicial philosophy to one that permitted much more of the New Deal legislation in response to the so-called court-packing plan, is an example of political determination of constitutional meaning. Ackerman delivered the 2006 Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures at Harvard Law School.
- Young, Shaun P. (2004). "The Concept of Political Liberalism". In Young, Shaun P. (ed.). Political Liberalism: Variations on a Theme. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7914-6175-4.
- Thiruvengadam, Arun K. (2019). "Evaluating Bruce Ackerman's 'Pathways to Constitutionalism' and India as an Exemplar of 'Revolutionary Constitutionalism on a Human Scale'". International Journal of Constitutional Law. 17 (2): 682. doi:10.1093/icon/moz048. ISSN 1474-2659.
- Levinson, Sanford (1999). "Transitions". The Yale Law Journal. 108 (8): 2215–2216. doi:10.2307/797386. ISSN 0044-0094.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-08. Retrieved 2017-03-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "The world's top 50 thinkers for the Covid-19 age" (PDF). Prospect. 2020. Retrieved 2020-09-08.
- "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
- Savage, Charlie (5 May 2016). "An Army Captain Takes Obama to Court Over ISIS Fight". The New York Times. pp. A14. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
- Ackerman, Bruce (5 May 2016). "Is America's War on ISIS Illegal". The New York Times. pp. A25. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
- Ford, Matt (5 May 2016). "Is the U.S. War Against ISIS Illegal?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
- The Editorial Board of the New York Times (10 May 2016). "A Soldier's Challenge to the President". The New York Times. pp. A22. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
- Ackerman, Bruce (8 April 2017). "Trump Must Get Congress's O.K. on Syria". The New York Times. p. A25. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
- Baume, Sandrine (2011). Hans Kelsen and the Case for Democracy, ECPR Press, pp. 53–54.
- Mark Tushnet. Taking the Constitution Away From the Courts (Princeton University Press 1999), pp. 1-11.
- Bruce A. Ackerman, The Storrs Lectures: Discovering the Constitution, 93 Yale L.J. 1013, 1031 (1984).
- Bruce Ackerman, De-Schooling Constitutional Law, 123 Yale L.J. 3104, 3120 (2014).
- Bruce Ackerman, The Living Constitution, 120 Harv. L. Rev. 1737 (2007).
- "Bruce Ackerman" at law.yale.edu