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Marcia Coyle is the national law Journal’s long time Chief Washington correspondent. She is an attorney and brings 25 years of reporting on the high court to her book. The great strength of Coyle’s book is the depth and balance of her reporting. She interviewed several justices on background and one Antonin Scalia on the record. She also interviewed the lawyers and litigants on both sides of the four highest profiled cases, of enormous consequence of 5-4 decisions, of the Roberts court from 2007 to 2009. By allowing all the participants to speak in their own voices, she gives us a nuanced sense of how conservative and libertarian lawyers strategically litigate the cases and transformed the law. Coyle supplies useful and colorful context about the litigants, lawyers, politics and legal precedent. She is especially good on the maneuvering of various special interest groups to identify and guide particular cases through the legal system, all with a hopeful eye toward eventual Supreme Court review. Coyle covers in detail a number of key cases these are:
1. Heller—the right to bear arms-2nd amendment case.
2. Louisville & Seattle school boards racial diversity plans—affirmative action in public schools
3. Citizens United- where free speech and campaign finance law collide
4. The Affordable Health care Act
The book is an excellent account of the Roberts-led court, about the varied background and clashing philosophies of the justices, the careful crafting of arguments to secure five votes, the courts continually shifting center of gravity and the peculiar burden that rest with the Chief Justice. Roberts is a conservative, what he is after eight tumultuous years, is the center of gravity on a court whose members range from hard-right to hard –left. Coyle points out the paramount roles played by perhaps the courts two least known justices. With the 2005 retirement of Sandra day O’Connor, Justice Anthony Kennedy became the swing vote, and her replacement Samuel Alito moved the court dramatically to the right. The republican’s have appointed all the Chief Justice since 1953 when the last democrat Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of Kentucky died, he was appointed by President Harry Truman. What I liked best about the book was that Coyle lets the facts and the Justices own words speak for themselves. What I have learned from this book and several other books about the Supreme Court is how important the court is to our daily lives and how important it is to apply great care in the selection of the justices. I highly recommend this book. Bernadette Dunne did an excellent job narrating the book.
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