ISSN 1062-7421
Vol. 11 No. 12 (December 2001) pp. 587-588.

SUPERINTENDING DEMOCRACY: THE COURTS AND THE POLITICAL PROCESS by Christopher P. Banks and John C. Green (Editors). Akron, OH: The University of Akron Press, 2001. 396 pp. Cloth $39.95. ISBN: 1-884-83672-0.

Reviewed by Mark Rush, Washington and Lee University

Bank's and Green's SUPERINTENDING DEMOCRACY is a collection of essays of varying length and depth concerning the judiciary's role in policing the
electoral process. In light of the 2000 election and the pending controversies concerning reapportionment and redistricting, the book is a timely addition to the existing literature on electoral law. The essays are divided into two broad sections addressing the courts' role in policing political resources and political actors respectively. This organization makes sense in theory, but would be of more practical use to the reader if this theme were developed more clearly in the opening chapter and if the authors tied their essays back into this overarching theme.

Banks and Green open and close the book with interesting discussions concerning "precarious position" the political system is in and the controversy surrounding the judiciary's role in resolving legal and constitutional disputes that arise from it. In the introduction, they set forth a heuristic model of judicial superintendence of democracy that organizes cases according to whether the courts engage in micro- or macro-level management and whether they are managing political actors or

Since actors and resources are so closely related in the political process, the editors might have spent more time developing this model. It is a useful yardstick, but is not incorporated well into the essays. As a result, at the end of the book, it is unclear how or whether the essay authors place their pieces in Banks and Green's framework.

Banks' chapter on political corruption is the longest piece in the book. It is an intriguing look at the extent to which the Constitution actually makes it difficult to define and police corruption. Insofar as rights to speech and political association are constitutionally enshrined and insofar as Madison's constitutional political vision is pluralist, Banks does a nice job of demonstrating how difficult it has become to distinguish between the reasonable-as opposed to the corrupt-pursuit of self-interest.
This is one of the best chapters in the book. Even though it is the longest, one wishes that Banks had been able to elaborate more. He thoughtfully organizes different sorts of corruption cases, but simply does not have enough room to develop his argument as well as he might. This is not a substantive criticism. Instead, it is a lament that Banks could not have developed the chapter into a law-review length essay or perhaps a book that could stand on its own.

Three ensuing chapters deal with campaign finance reform. In a debate that nicely stakes out the polar positions on campaign spending, John Bonifaz, Gregory Luke and Brenda Wright advocate the repeal of BUCKLEY v VALEO and the

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establishment of stricter controls over campaign spending, while Joel Gora responds with a discussion of the dangers inherent in doing so. Trevor Potter follows with a thoughtful discussion of how full disclosure-seemingly the least restrictive of all campaign spending restrictions-would still have a chilling effect on free speech.

Barbara Perry's essay is a brief but solid introduction to the struggles the Court has endured in trying to balance the competing aspects of redistricting and voting rights law. The only problem is that it does not really follow the three campaign finance essays well and seems to stand alone in the collection.

Part II, "Superintending Political Actors," is similarly structured. The core is comprised of essays by John Green on the associational rights of political parties, David Ryden on the obstacles the Court has erected against political reform and David O'Brien in an intriguing discussion on political patronage. Discrete essays by Katy Harriger, on Whitewater and Iran-Contra, and Stephen Tauber, on the impact of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund on minority voting rights law, follow these. Again, each of the essays is concise, well-written and a sound introduction to any one seeking a broad overview of electoral law.

In Banks' concluding essay on BUSH v. GORE, he notes:

"This book aptly illustrates the uneasy relationship between law and politics, as well as the success and failure of the Supreme Court's management of the political arena through law.. [The analyses]. also raise the possibility that court intervention may be illegitimate, or perceived as such, because the judiciary is either too activist or too restrained in resolving political cases" (pp. 238-39).

There is no gainsaying this assessment of the state of American electoral law. However, I don't think the book covers the ground as well as he suggests. The essays are individually thoughtful, but do not cohere under the umbrella of micro- and macromanagement that the authors set forth in the opening essays. Insofar as this is a collection of essays, it is to be expected that the chapters won't cohere as well as those in a single-author work. Nonetheless, as the collection stands, it does not follow the plan suggested in the opening essays. It would have been helpful if the contributors could have reworked their contributions to reflect the overarching themes set forth by Banks and Green.

As well, although the topic is clearly timely, some of the essays are already somewhat dated. Again, this is to be expected in any such endeavor. However, given that the conference from which the essays are drawn occurred in 1998, several essays would have been much more useful if they had incorporated or elaborated upon the Supreme Court's recent decisions on the associational rights of political parties campaign spending and redistricting as a compliment to Banks' chapter on BUSH v. GORE.

In sum, SUPERINTENDING DEMOCRACY is a useful but already somewhat dated collection of thoughtful essays by respected scholars from across our
discipline. Newcomers will find it a useful starting point for research in the field and established research will find several of the essays to be thought provoking.


Copyright 2001 by the author, Mark Rush.