Overcoming Necessity Emergency, Constraint, and the Meanings of American Constitutionalism Thomas P. Crocker

Publication date:
25 Aug 2020
Yale University Press
344 pages: 235 x 156 x 25mm
Sales territories:

An argument for why emergencies are no excuse for extralegal action by presidents

Using emergency as a cause for action ultimately leads to an almost unnoticed evolution in the political understanding of presidential powers. The Constitution, however, was designed to function under “states of exception,” most notably through the separation of powers, and provides ample internal checks on emergency actions taken under claims of necessity. Thomas Crocker urges Congress, the courts, and other bodies to put those checks into practice.

Thomas P. Crocker is professor of law at the University of South Carolina Law School.

CHOICE 2021 Outstanding Academic Title

"Crocker establishes that power-grabs by individual presidents are only symptoms of deeper dilemmas involved in sustaining the rule of law. His remarkably incisive analysis provides essential tools for Americans seeking to sustain their tradition of checks-and-balances into the twenty-first century."—Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University

"Thomas Crocker brings his skills as a lawyer and philosopher to answering perhaps the most crucial question in constitutional law: to what extent, and how, should the Constitution, in John Marshall’s words, 'be adapted to the various crises of human affairs'? Anyone interested in this vital question will certainly benefit from Crocker’s careful analyses."—Sanford Levinson, author of An Argument Open to All: Reading The Federalist in the 21st Century

"A more timely intervention could hardly be imagined. In this wide-ranging and powerful book, Thomas Crocker makes the compelling argument that America needs to get beyond the necessity framework that governs the constitutional law of detention, surveillance, interrogation, and targeted killings post 9/11. Theoretically sophisticated and legally acute, Overcoming Necessity should be required reading for everyone interested in contemporary politics."—Bernard E. Harcourt, author of The Counterrevolution: How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens

"Provocative and philosophically rich, Overcoming Necessity is an essential guide for all those grappling with questions of presidential impunity and norm violation, offering a powerful defense of American constitutionalism in the face of emergency."—Aziz Rana, author of The Two Faces of American Freedom