The Right Coast

May 29, 2005
Tribe's Decision
By Mike Rappaport

Larry Tribe has decided not to finish the third edition of his constitutional law treatise. Some view this as big news:

"It's like Michael Jordan leaving basketball at the top of his game," says Ross Davies of George Mason University School of Law. "This is like George Lucas announcing that he would not finish Episode III," adds Florida International University law professor Thomas Baker.
Yeah, right. I suppose I would think it a bigger deal if I ever read it any more. As a law student, I read the first treatise, but I found that it reflected Tribe's views, not the law or what I considered interesting. I have barely even glanced at it since then.

Update: Jack Balkin discusses some of the reasons for Tribe's decision:

For many years, Tribe has been a key exponent and defender of a liberal synthesis of the constitutional law created by the Warren and Burger Courts. Because Tribe has seen his job as synthesizing and reconstructing the larger themes of constitutional law as it actually exists, several of his positions have changed over the years as the Supreme Court (and existing doctrine) have become more conservative. Yet at the same time, the Rehnquist Court has pushed the liberal civil rights agenda in ways that the Warren and Burger Courts never did, for example, in the area of gay rights. Hence, until this moment, Tribe has worked on the assumption that the Supreme Court, even if it has not decided every issue in the ways he would prefer, has been working within the basic paradigms of reasoning established by the Warren and Burger Courts. Apparently, Tribe now believes that this may no longer be the case, and that a Supreme Court stocked with new Bush appointees will shift constitutional doctrine in important new directions. Perhaps equally important, Tribe appears to believe that the new Court will shift doctrine in directions that will make his synthesis of existing doctrine outmoded or irrelevant.