Bryan K. Fair


The purpose of this essay is to review the strengths and weaknesses of the latest edition of Cohen and Varat’s Constitutional Law: Cases and Materials. After teaching from it for seven years, the author of this review states unequivocally that it is a first-rate teaching tool – unquestionably one of the leading, traditional casebooks, enabling thousands of law students throughout the country to gain some insight on a vast array of constitutional questions. Below, rather than simply describe the casebook's broad contents, the author illustrates how he uses it in a class of 65 to 100 students, meeting for 50 minutes per class, 60 times during a semester, hoping perhaps to assist another new teacher embarking on understanding and presenting the mysteries of constitutional decision-making. Part One of this Review explains the author’s journey from law student to Constitutional Law teacher, and his selection of Cohen and Varat. Part Two examines Cohen and Varat as a teaching tool. In a word, it has proven excellent on most counts for that purpose, and it is highly recommended. Part Three assesses the casebook's principal weaknesses, and it offers suggestions for improvement, consistent with the goals set forth by the casebook's editors.