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The Supreme Court. Revised and Updated

Rehnquist, William H.

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ISBN 10: 0375708618 / ISBN 13: 9780375708619
Published by Vintage Books, New York, 2002
Used Condition: very good
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302, wraps, illus., table of cases, bibliography, indexRehnquist was the first sitting Chief Justice to publish a book about the Supreme Court. The book was originally published in 1987; this revised and updated edition was published in 2002. Bookseller Inventory # 55955

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Supreme Court. Revised and Updated

Publisher: Vintage Books, New York

Publication Date: 2002

Book Condition:very good

Edition: First Vintage Edition. Seventh Printing.

About this title


The sixteenth Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s classic book offers a lively and accessible history of the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Rehnquist’s engaging writing illuminates both the high and low points in the Court's history, from Chief Justice Marshall’s dominance of the Court during the early nineteenth century through the landmark decisions of the Warren Court. Citing cases such as the Dred Scott decision and Roosevelt's Court-packing plan, Rehnquist makes clear that the Court does not operate in a vacuum, that the justices are unavoidably influenced by their surroundings, and that their decisions have real and lasting impacts on our society. The public often hears little about the Supreme Court until decisions are handed down. Here, Rehnquist reveals its inner workings--the process by which cases are chosen, the nature of the conferences where decisions are made, and the type of debates that take place. With grace and wit, this incisive history gives a dynamic and informative account of the most powerful court in the nation and how it has shaped the direction America has taken.


U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist sets a simple goal for himself: "This book is designed to convey to the interested, informed layman, as well as lawyers who do not specialize in constitutional law, a better understanding of the role of the Supreme Court in American government." He succeeds fabulously. The Supreme Court, an updated version of a book originally published in 1987, is a succinct and readable account of the Court's past and present. Rehnquist avoids getting bogged down in the minutia of particular cases, even as he deftly covers the details of several extremely important ones, such as Marbury v. Madison and Dred Scott v. Sandford.

The most interesting parts of the book explain how the current Court goes about its business. In these fascinating chapters, Rehnquist consistently includes nifty touches, such as how his law clerks decide who gets to work on which cases and the strict seating protocol that is followed when the nine justices--and nobody else--sit in conference to discuss their votes. If there's a knock on the door, it's the most junior justice who must answer. They don't really discuss cases at all during these meetings, but rather state their views. "I do not believe that conference discussion changes many votes," writes the Chief Justice. Oral arguments, on the other hand, are different: "In a significant minority of the cases in which I have heard oral argument, I have left the bench feeling differently about a case than I did when I came to the bench."

Rehnquist briefly lays out his own theory of jurisprudence in a short concluding chapter: "Go beyond the language of the Constitution, and the meaning that may be fairly ascribed to the language, and into the consciences of individual judges, is to embark on a journey that is treacherous indeed." Yet The Supreme Court largely skips comment on existing controversies, such as abortion rights, race-based policies, or the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The book is exactly what Rehnquist promises: An accessible and enlightening introduction to a vital institution. --John J. Miller

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