Judicial role in biased policing is History Book Festival topic Aug. 26

August 18, 2021

A prominent U.S. constitutional scholar, Supreme Court litigator, educator and author will reveal how the nation’s high court has consistently favored unrestrained policing over personal rights during a History Book Festival program  at 5 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 26, via Zoom. 

Erwin Chemerinsky will discuss his latest book, “Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights,” with UCLA Law School Professor Devon Carbado. A question-and-answer session will follow the discussion.

The event is free, but preregistration is required. To reserve a spot, go to

Chemerinsky argues that it is no accident that police are nine times more likely to kill Black men than they are other Americans. He attributes this to an elaborate body of doctrines that allow the police and, crucially, the courts to presume that suspects – especially people of color – are guilty before being charged.

Citing specific rulings, Chemerinsky builds a case that the Supreme Court has enabled racist practices, including profiling and intimidation, and has legitimated gross law enforcement excesses that disproportionately affect people of color.

From its inception in 1789 until the Warren Court in 1953, the Supreme Court rarely ruled against the police, and then only when police conduct was truly shocking. Although the Warren Court imposed significant constitutional limits on policing, Chemerinsky argues that justices in the years since have sanctioned stop-and-frisks, limited lawsuits seeking to reform police departments, and abetted the use of lethal chokeholds.

Chemerinsky is the dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. Prior to assuming that position in 2017, he was the founding dean at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. He also has taught law at Duke University, the University of Southern California and UCLA.

Chemerinsky, who has argued several cases in the Supreme Court, is the author of 11 books, including “The Conservative Assault on the Constitution” and “The Case Against the Supreme Court.” He also has written treatises about constitutional law, criminal procedure and federal jurisdiction.

Carbado is a professor at the UCLA School of Law. He teaches constitutional criminal procedure, constitutional law, critical race theory and criminal adjudication. He has received numerous teaching awards, and was an inaugural recipient of the Fletcher Foundation Fellowship. His books include “Acting White? Rethinking Race in ‘Post-Racial’ America,” co-authored with Mitu Gulati.

Copies of “Presumed Guilty” are available at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, the official bookseller of the History Book Festival. Biblion in Lewes also has copies of the book for sale. Books purchased at either shop come with a signed archival bookplate.

The Aug. 26 program is part of the 2021 History Book Festival, which features noted authors of newly published historical fiction and nonfiction works. The virtual events will occur weekly through the summer.

Presenting sponsors of the 2021 festival are Delaware Humanities and the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gallo Realty.

In addition to the Lewes Public Library, the festival’s virtual programs are supported by the Delaware Division of Libraries and Sussex County Libraries.

Now in its fifth year, the History Book Festival is the first and only book festival in the United States devoted exclusively to history. 

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