From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun's lifelong connection with Chief Justice Warren Burger—beginning in kindergarten in St. Paul, Minn., and culminating in 16 years together on the Supreme Court—supplies Greenhouse with one of her main organizing themes in this illuminating study of Blackmun's life and intellectual history. Once the closest of friends, Blackmun (1908–1999) and Burger diverged personally and ideologically, beginning in 1973, when Burger assigned Blackmun to write the Court's opinion in Roe v. Wade
. Greenhouse, the New York Times'
s veteran Supreme Court watcher, draws primarily on Blackmun's massive personal archive to show how his authorship of the majority opinion in Roe
(7–2) propelled him down several unexpected paths. Blackmun embraced equal protection for women and came to reject capital punishment. A Nixon appointee, Blackmun became the Supreme Court's most liberal justice after the retirement of William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall. The personality that emerges in Greenhouse's portrayal is that of a self-effacing and scholarly judge, devoid of partisanship, willing to follow his ideas wherever they led him. Making no pretense at being definitive or comprehensive, Greenhouse sets a high standard in offering an intimate look both at the man and at the development of his judicial thought. B&w photos. (May)
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Greenhouse, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with the New York Times
, was the first print reporter to have access to the personal and official papers of Justice Blackmun, who died in 1999, five years after retiring from the Supreme Court. Those papers are Greenhouse's primary source as she looks back on the 24 years of Blackmun's service on the court. He wrote the majority opinion in the Roe
decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, but his papers reflect his personal struggle with the decision, as well as others on issues of the death penalty and sex discrimination. The immense collection includes correspondence with other jurists, including Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. Greenhouse draws on personal papers to show Blackmun's personal journey, from entries in a childhood diary to the musings of a young lawyer hungering for partnership. This is an absorbing look at the personal and official concerns of a man who helped to shape American law and society. Vernon FordCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved