56 RI Bar J., No. 3, Pg. 17. Book Review The Rhode Island State Constitution: A Reference Guide.

Author:Jay S. Goodman, Esq.
 
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Rhode Island Bar Journal

Volume 56.

56 RI Bar J., No. 3, Pg. 17.

Book Review The Rhode Island State Constitution: A Reference Guide

Rhode Island Bar JournalVolume 56, No. 4, Pg.1 7 November/December 2007 Book Review The Rhode Island State Constitution: A Reference GuideBy Patrick T. Conley and Robert G. Flanders, Jr.Jay S. Goodman, Esq.Professor of Political Science at Wheaton College, Norton, MA, and a Rhode Island lobbyist.

Patrick T. Conley's and Robert G. Flanders, Jr.'s The Rhode Island State Constitution: A Reference Guide (Praeger: New York 2006, 333 pages, $165.) is Volume 44 in the Praeger series Reference Guides to the State Constitutions of the United States. The series itself is a great contribution to an often-overlooked part of our national legal heritage. This Rhode Island volume is the final word on the oft fought-over Rhode Island basic document.

The Unique Authors

The authors are uniquely qualified to present this work. Patrick Conley has more lives than most Renaissance men - entrepreneur, political activist, scholar, and most recently, Providence waterfront developer. Whatever else he was doing, over the more than forty years I have known him, he has painstakingly researched and written about Rhode Island constitutional law, not to mention collecting and archiving numerous original documents.

Of course, in a typical Rhode Island fillip, Conley creates true, post-modernist problems of perspective. He is more than a chronicler of Rhode Island's political battles with a Notre Dame PhD. He was also a participant in most of the constitutional conventions since 1964, authored numerous constitutional articles in those sessions, and fought for them inside and outside the meetings. On top of that, he has been an attorney in forty Supreme Court cases.

So, Conley is here writing about events where he was a player, describing, as a historian, his own conduct and arguments, and then commenting on his own legal cases. In all, Conley references his own activities twelve times and his writings fourteen times. Co-author Robert Flanders gets five separate cites.

As one example, in discussing a proposed separation of powers constitutional amendment before the General Assembly in 2003, Conley cites his own testimony before the House Committee on Separation of Powers. He lists the fifteen warnings he set forth detailing how the amendment would weaken the Assembly, by eliminating its "residual powers clause," which read (since 1843): "The general assembly shall continue the exercise the powers it has heretofore exercised, unless prohibited by the constitution." The clause finally went in the reforms of 2005. Some of Conley's dire predictions have already come to pass and...

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