The Constitutional Parent Rights, Responsibilities, and the Enfranchisement of the Child Jeffrey Shulman

Publication date:
29 Jul 2014
Yale University Press
360 pages: 235 x 156 x 25mm
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In this bold and timely work, law professor Jeffrey Shulman argues that the United States Constitution does not protect a fundamental right to parent. Based on a rigorous reconsideration of the historical record, Shulman challenges the notion, held by academics and the general public alike, that parental rights have a long-standing legal pedigree. What is deeply rooted in our legal tradition and social conscience, Shulman demonstrates, is the idea that the state entrusts parents with custody of the child, and it does so only as long as parents meet their fiduciary duty to serve the developmental needs of the child.
Shulman’s illuminating account of American legal history is of more than academic interest.  If once again we treat parenting as a delegated responsibility—as a sacred trust, not a sacred right—we will not all reach the same legal prescriptions, but we might be more willing to consider how time-honored principles of family law can effectively accommodate the evolving interests of parent, child, and state.

Jeffrey Shulman teaches constitutional family law and legal writing at Georgetown Law. He lives in Frederick, MD.

Winner of the thirty-seventh annual Alpha Sigma Nu book Awards in the Professional Studies catgoery, in the discipline of law.

"This beautifully written history is enormously important to the current debate about the state’s ability to protect children. Shulman’s compelling story of the constitutional parent brings new light to the issues, and new support for child rights."—Elizabeth Bartholet, author of Family Bonds and Nobody's Children

"This deeply learned, beautifully written, and courageous book should be read by anyone who cares about the fraught relationship between children, parents, and the state." —Louis Michael Seidman, author of On Constitutional Disobedience

"This book is a watershed moment in the trajectory of scholarship on parents’ rights, and the state’s obligations, over and toward the education and well-being of children.  It is a brilliant book in several respects: it is at once rigorous and intellectual, but also passionate, intense, and central to the well-being of our polity."—Robin West, author of Normative Jurisprudence

"The Constitutional Parent combines rich historical and normative analysis in novel ways to mount a compelling critique of prevailing assumptions about parental entitlement to control children's lives. It is a fascinating read."—James Dwyer, author of The Relationship Rights of Children