Bruce Allen Murphy Scalia: A Court of One

ISBN 13: 9780743296496

Scalia: A Court of One

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9780743296496: Scalia: A Court of One
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An authoritative, deeply researched biography of the most controversial and outspoken Supreme Court justice of our time and how he chose to be “right” rather than influential.

Antonin Scalia knew only success in the first fifty years of his life. His sterling academic and legal credentials led to his nomination by President Ronald Reagan to the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in 1982. In four short years there, he successfully outmaneuvered the more senior Robert Bork to be appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986.

Scalia’s evident legal brilliance and personal magnetism led everyone to predict he would unite a new conservative majority under Chief Justice William Rehnquist and change American law in the process. Instead he became a Court of One. Rather than bringing the conservatives together, Scalia drove them apart. He attacked and alienated his more moderate colleagues Sandra Day O’Connor, then David Souter, and finally Anthony Kennedy. Scalia prevented the conservative majority from coalescing for nearly two decades.

Scalia: A Court of One is the compelling story of one of the most polarizing figures ever to serve on the nation’s highest court. It provides an insightful analysis of Scalia’s role on a Court that, like him, has moved well to the political right, losing public support and ignoring public criticism. To the delight of his substantial conservative following, Scalia’s “originalism” theory has become the litmus test for analyzing, if not always deciding, cases. But Bruce Allen Murphy shows that Scalia’s judicial conservatism is informed as much by his highly traditional Catholicism, mixed with his political partisanship, as by his reading of the Constitution. Murphy also brilliantly analyzes Scalia’s role in major court decisions since the mid-1980s and scrutinizes the ethical controversies that have dogged Scalia in recent years. A Court of One is a fascinating examination of one outspoken justice’s decision not to play internal Court politics, leaving him frequently in dissent, but instead to play for history, seeking to etch his originalism philosophy into American law.

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About the Author:

Bruce Allen Murphy is the Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he teaches American constitutional law and civil rights and liberties, American politics, and biographical writing. He is the author of Scalia; The Brandeis-Frankfurter Connection: The Secret Political Activities of Two Supreme Court Justices; Fortas: The Rise and Ruin of a Supreme Court Justice; and Wild Bill: The Legend and Life of William O. Douglas. Murphy lives with his wife in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

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*Starred Review* Though he is widely considered the most outspoken and controversial member of the Supreme Court, Scalia has seen his influence on the court and his colleagues suffer because of those very characteristics. In this thoroughly researched biography, legal scholar Murphy argues that Scalia has adamantly chosen to be “right” rather than influential in pushing his doctrine of “originalism” in interpreting the law on everything from abortion rights to free speech. An unwavering devotion to traditional Catholic faith and love of a good argument have been the guiding forces in Scalia’s life. Murphy traces Scalia’s career of legal practice; teaching; service in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations; and working for a conservative think tank between administrations. Scalia learned the concept of strict originalism from his academic father, the Catholic Church, and conservative political philosophers. He honed his ideas while at the University of Chicago, working with Robert Bork and law school students to launch what became the Federalist Society. Murphy details Scalia’s behind-the-scenes angling to push himself as the leading advocate for originalism and to get on the Supreme Court. But his scathing critiques set him at odds with conservatives, most notably Sandra Day O’Connor, pushing many to the center. Murphy offers a highly engaged, well-researched analysis of a brash justice whose single-mindedness may ultimately reduce his legacy. --Vanessa Bush

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