A Doubtful and Perilous Experiment: Advisory Opinions, State Constitutions, and Judicial Supremacy

ISBN : 9780199756766

Mel A. Topf
238 Pages
163 x 236 mm
Pub date
Sep 2011
Send mail

In A Doubtful and Perilous Experiment: Advisory Opinions, State Constitutions, and Judicial Supremacy, author Mel A. Topf provides readers with a comprehensive treatment of the history, concept, jurisprudence and controversies relating to state Supreme Court advisory opinions. A Doubtful and Perilous Experiment is the only comprehensive treatment of the history and controversies, the law and theories about state supreme court advisory opinions. This is a significant area of state constitutional law that has no parallel in federal law (which bars advisory opinions from federal courts). Though just ten states have adopted such advisory opinions (many others have debated but rejected them), they have been implicated in major issues regarding American judicial power. The book explains the-so far unexplained-first appearance of advisory authority in 1780, and address the persistent aura of illegitimacy that has always shadowed this authority. The frequent attacks on the legitimacy of advisory opinions have been triggered by their clash with basic doctrines of our legal system, including separation of powers, due process, judicial review, judicial independence, and judicial supremacy. A Doubtful and Perilous Experiment shows how law of state supreme court advisory opinions in fact arose in response to the attacks, resulting in an elaborate jurisprudence of advisory opinions centering on a remarkable but not entirely successful attempt to justify when the justices will advise and when they will not. The book tells the story of attempts to defend advisory authority, including several attempts to amend the U.S. Constitution to require the Supreme Court to issues them. It tells the story also of the uneasy relation between advisory opinions and judicial review as well as the expansion of judicial power.


1 This Peculiar Obligation: The Problem of State Supreme Courts as Advisors
2 Danger of Grave Abuses: Attacks on the Legitimacy of Advisory Opinions
3 To Create a Power to Refuse: The Rise of a Jurisprudence of Advisory Opinions
4 Useful Instrument of Government: Defending Advisory Opinions
5 An Offer That Can't Be Refused: Judicial Review and the Failed Attempts to Distinguish Advice and Decisions
6 Advisory Opinions and Judicial Supremacy: Constitutionalism, a Politicized Judiciary, and the Eclipse of Civic Debate
Appendix A: Advisory Opinion Provisions
Appendix B: A Note on Advisory Opinions outside the United States
Appendix C: Annotated Bibliography
Appendix D: A Checklist of Articles Devoted to Advisory Opinions in a Single State

About the author: 

Mel A. Topf, professor and administrator at Roger Williams University, received a Ph.D. in language and literature in 1969 and a law degree in 2006, reflecting a longstanding interest in the relation of communication with the exercise of authority and power. His public service included two terms of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles published in law, history, and communication journals. Professor Topf practices law pro bono while continuing as a professor and department chair.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.