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Publisher's Summary

From the admired judicial authority, author of Louis D. Brandeis ("Remarkable" - Anthony Lewis, The New York Review of Books; "Monumental" - Alan M. Dershowitz, The New York Times Book Review), Division and Discord, and Supreme Decisions - Melvin Urofsky's major new audiobook looks at the role of dissent in the Supreme Court and the meaning of the Constitution through the greatest and longest lasting public-policy debate in the country's history, among members of the Supreme Court, between the Court and the other branches of government, and between the Court and the people of the United States.
Urofsky writes of the necessity of constitutional dialogue as one of the ways in which we as a people reinvent and reinvigorate our democratic society. In Dissent and the Supreme Court, he explores the great dissents throughout the Court's 225-year history. He discusses in detail the role the Supreme Court has played in helping to define what the Constitution means, how the Court's majority opinions have not always been right, and how the dissenters, by positing alternative interpretations, have initiated a critical dialogue about what a particular decision should mean. This dialogue is sometimes resolved quickly; other times it may take decades before the Court adjusts its position. Louis Brandeis' dissenting opinion about wiretapping became the position of the Court four decades after it was written. The Court took six decades to adopt the dissenting opinion of the first Justice John Harlan in Plessy v. Ferguson - that segregation on the basis of race violated the Constitution - in Brown v. Board of Education.
Urofsky shows that the practice of dissent grew slowly but steadily and that in the 19th century dissents became more frequent. In the (in)famous case of Dred Scott v. Sanford, Chief Justice Roger Taney's opinion upheld slavery, declaring that blacks could never be citizens.
©2015 Melvin I. Urofsky (P)2015 Random House Audio
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Jean on 08-30-16


A few years ago I started reading the biographies of Supreme Court Justices. I found their stories and that of the Court fascinating. Since then I have been reading about the Supreme Court and want to know more about the law. I found this book absolutely captivating; but I am sure the readers with law degrees will already know the material and if one is not interested they might be bored.

Melvin Urofsky traced the history of dissents from the founding era to the present. The author attempts to determine what value can be found in dissenting opinions. Urofsky states that dissents are an essential part of the “constitutional dialogue,” the device by which our nation has adapted to the changing times.

Urofsky reviews not only the Supreme Court but various State Supreme Courts and some foreign courts particularly France as it compares to the United States. The author also spends some time comparing the difference between the Supreme Court of Canada to that of the United States. Urofsky discusses in detail some of the famous dissents and some history of the Justices who wrote them. Some of the people he covers are John Marshall, Louis Brandeis, John Marshall Harlan, Hugo Black, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Stephen Breyer, Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Felix Frankfurter. Urofsky does provide a brief historical overview of the Court.

The book is elegantly written and meticulously researched. The author provided a balance between the people and the issues which helped maintain interest. I found the discussion about how various countries consider their laws most interesting. Urofsky is a law professor and historian; I have read a number of his books with great enjoyment.

Dan Woren does an excellent job narrating the book. Woren is an actor and voice over actor who is a well-known narrator of audiobooks.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Paul Smith on 05-29-16

In some ways disturbing

I liked this book because the subject is critical to understand our current situation. Fill in your own blank for "current situation". What made it even better is that I couldn't tell which side ( liberal or conservative) the professor took until the very last chapter, which unfortunately is unusual for law professors who write books.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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