Cover image for In our defense : the Bill of Rights in action
In our defense : the Bill of Rights in action
Alderman, Ellen.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Perennial, [2002]

Physical Description:
430 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
First amendment -- Second amendment -- Third amendment -- Fourth amendment -- Fifth amendment -- Sixth amendment -- Seventh amendment -- Eighth amendment -- Ninth amendment -- Tenth amendment.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
KF4750 .A43 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



We The People

The Bill of Rights defines and defends the freedoms we enjoy as Americans -- from the right to bear arms to the right to a civil jury. Using the dramatic true stories of people whose lives have been deeply affected by such issues as the death penalty and the right to privacy, attorneys Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy reveal how the majestic principles of the Bill of Rights have taken shape in the lives of ordinary people, as well as the historic and legal significance of each amendment. In doing so, they shed brilliant new light on this visionary document, which remains as vital and as controversial today as it was when a great nation was newly born.

Author Notes

Caroline Bouvier Kennedy was born in New York City on born November 27, 1957 to John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. She received an A.B. from Radcliffe College in 1979 and a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1988. She is the author and editor of several books on constitutional law, American history, politics, and poetry including In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action, The Right to Privacy, The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Profiles in Courage for Our Time, A Patriot's Handbook, A Family Christmas, and She Walks in Beauty - A Woman's Journey through Poems. She has also compiled the interview tapes and written the forward for Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Booklist Review

Alderman and the president's daughter narrate and analyze 19 contemporary Bill of Rights cases adjudged by the Supreme Court. The resulting stories--about native Americans fighting for their religion, the Kansas City KKK on public access TV, an FBI conspiracy against the right of assembly, the underrepresentation of black and women jurors in a sensational murder trial--are propelled by a page-turning prose distinctive enough to be considered elemental to a possible new genre of litigation literature ("lit-lit"). General readers will learn how lawyers read and argue about the Bill of Rights, will be both motivated and intellectually prepared to follow cases that make the daily news, and unless they are hopelessly cynical, will come away from the book with restored admiration for the uncompromisingly radical sensibility of the "most comprehensive protection of individual freedom ever written." They may also garner the unsettling conviction that such protection could not possibly emerge from today's federal Congress. ~--Roland Wulbert

Publisher's Weekly Review

Does a citizenry's revulsion at hate-mongering outweigh the Ku Klux Klan's claimed right to broadcast racist messages? In what circumstances do national security considerations give government the wherewithal to clamp restrictions on a free press? If a mother suspected of child abuse refuses to tell authorities where the youngster is for fear that the state will take him from her, is she acting within the Fifth Amendment right protecting against self-incrimination? These cases and many other thorny issues addressed in this compelling casebook had legal outcomes that hinged on the courts' interpretation of the Bill of Rights. For each of the 10 amendments, one or more pertinent cases are presented in clear, impartial, jargon-free discussions encompassing the rights to privacy, gun control, FBI surveillance of political activists, minimum wage, flag burning and other issues. Columbia Law School graduates Alderman, a Manhattan attorney, and Kennedy (daughter of JFK) have produced a valuable primer for Supreme Court watchers. BOMC alternate. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The authors use fascinating accounts of real-life controversies to introduce the general reader to the Bill of Rights. Nineteen vignettes illuminate virtually all rights guarantees and demonstrate their contemporary relevance. Of particular interest are the stories about the development of public land held sacred by Native Americans (First Amendment) and the attempt to protect minors testifying in molestation cases (Sixth Amendment). Although the authors emphasize the human side of the Bill of Rights rather than its judicial interpretation, their legal analysis is sound, and the extensive notes and bibliography provide direction for further research. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/90.-- G. Alan Tarr, Rutgers Univ., Camden, N.J. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-- Alderman and Kennedy have taken the Bill of Rights and made it breathe. Their book considers 20 or so Supreme Court cases, the verdicts of which pivot on one of the first Ten Amendments to the U. S. Constitution. The cases chosen are not the landmark, precedent-setting ones with which most people are familiar. Instead, readers will find normal people who, because of circumstance, victimization, or character flaws, end up having their stories studied by the highest court in the land. As the authors acknowledge, ``It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have frequently been forged in controversies involving not very nice people.'' Several life histories read more like soap operas and B-movies than a law text. The writing is clear, direct, and often poignant. There are photographs of some of the protagonists that add to the down-to-earth character of this study. Finally, it is entertaining.-- Vicki Fox, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In their readable and informative book, Alderman and Kennedy, two Columbia University School of Law graduates, underscore the continuing relevance of a 200-year-old Bill of Rights. This widely accessible book could effectively introduce the topic to the 59 of Americans who are unable to identify the Bill of Rights. The authors, having interviewed selected litigants, present human stories that dramatically illustrate how the Constitution affects the lives of real people. Is the Ku Klux Klan entitled to air time on a public-access cable television channel? Can a magazine publish the "secret" of the H-bomb? What about a distraught father who unhooks his little boy's life support system? Can two young girls be shielded from the man accused of sexually molesting them? How effective must a lawyer be to provide the assistance of counsel? Can a mother suspected of abusing her 19-month-old baby "take the Fifth" when authorities come looking for her child? The authors do not glorify their interview subjects. As Justice Frankfurter said, "the safeguards of liberty have frequently been forged in controversies involving not very nice poeple." A balanced treatment of opposing arguments and legal principles is provided. The book makes readers both think and feel. Useful endnotes, bibliography, and index. Reminiscent of Peter Irons's The Courage of Their Convictions (CH, Apr'89). Appropriate for libraries at all levels. -J. A. Melusky, Saint Francis College