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September 17, 2008

Constitution Day Essay 2008: Professor Sanford Levinson examines the dictatorial power of the Presidency

The University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson is among a group of prominent scholars and politicians solicited by the Widener University School of Law in Delaware to write essays on the Presidency for Constitution Day on September 17, 2008. The authors also include Democratic Vice Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., of Delaware.

For the past three years, the Widener law school has asked a group of authors to submit short essays reflecting on the meaning of the Constitution and the state of American democracy. This year, given the proximity of Constitution Day to the Presidential election, the 2008 essay collection is focused on the Presidency. Some of the essays examine the process by which Americans select Presidents while others consider the scope and limits of Presidential power.

Professor Levinson’s essay is titled “Are we electing a ‘constitutional dictator’?” It criticizes the U.S. system of electoral democracy that allows presidents to make dictatorial decisions of great consequence without providing ways to discipline those who display bad judgment.

To read the full text of each essay, including Levinson’s work, visit the Widener law school’s Web site at To go directly to Levinson’s essay visit

Levinson’s essay also appeared on September 14, 2008, in The News Journal and, which are running a sampling of these essays that explore some of the toughest constitutional problems surrounding the office of the presidency. Go to “The decider can become a dictator” at

Constitution Day is observed nationally each year on September 17, the date the Constitution was signed in Philadelphia in 1787. Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution.

Levinson, who is teaching a seminar at Harvard Law School this semester on constitutional dictatorship, is the author of Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (And How We the People Can Correct It). He will give several talks this month in honor of Constitution Day including a talk at Northeastern University on September 25, 2008.

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Professor Sanford Levinson

Contact: Kirston Fortune, Assistant Dean for Communications, (512) 471.7330 or