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In this compelling work of character-driven history, Jeffrey Rosen recounts the history of the Court through the personal and philosophical rivalries on the bench that transformed the law - and by extension, our lives. The story begins with the great Chief Justice John Marshall and President Thomas Jefferson, cousins from the Virginia elite whose differing visions of America set the tone for the Court's first hundred years. The tale continues after the Civil War with Justices John Marshall Harlan and Oliver Wendell Holmes, who clashed over the limits of majority rule. Rosen then examines the Warren Court era through the lens of the liberal icons Hugo Black and William O. Douglas, for whom personality loomed larger than ideology. He concludes with a pairing from our own era, the conservatives William H. Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia, only one of whom was able to build majorities in support of his views.
Through these four rivalries, Rosen brings to life the perennial conflict that has animated the Court, between those justices guided by strong ideology and those who forge coalitions and adjust to new realities. He illuminates the relationship between judicial temperament and judicial success or failure. The stakes are nothing less than the future of American jurisprudence.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Trevor Burnham on 02-14-07
While not a comprehensive history of the Supreme Court, this book does illuminate key periods in the court's history by tying the judicial philosophies of justices such as Marshall and Warren to those of contemporary justices such as O'Connor and Scalia. The book is succinctly written and well-read, and while an academic work, it avoids being too dry. A must-read for anyone interested in legal philosophy or American history.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
By Leigh A on 03-03-07
You would not be reading this review if you were not interested in the subject. So I can highly recommend the book to you. It is well written with biographical outlines of the personalities involved and the case histories that exemplify the outcomes both at the time and in retrospect. Personal views of the author are evident but do not detract from the content.
Sklar’s narration makes the book. A lesser narrator could have made the author’s lecture like presentation dry. I will look for more of his work.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful