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Courting Disaster: The Supreme Court and the Unmaking of American Law Paperback – August 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Garbus, a leading First Amendment lawyer and TV commentator, believes the U.S. Supreme Court, rather than protecting American democracy, poses a grave threat to it. He argues that the conservative bloc of the Court, driven by the ideological vision of William Rehnquist and intellectual vigor of Antonin Scalia, is "seizing power" and seeking to eviscerate individual freedoms most Americans assume to be their birthright. He fears even more that conservative Bush appointees would give the Rehnquist bloc the necessary votes to rewrite the Constitution and severely limit the right to abortion, significant First Amendment rights and protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Garbus doesn't dumb down his subject; he discusses Supreme Court cases and the underlying judicial philosophy on the level of a law school class. The analysis of the Court's decisions on women's rights, race, affirmative action and religion will be familiar to sophisticated readers, but the discussion of the constitutional development of economic regulation will be new to most. Still, despite the density of the material, Garbus's writing is clear and comprehensible. Sympathetic that is, liberal readers will find his message chilling and will welcome his call for citizens to use their political influence to convince moderate senators, who will provide the pivotal votes on the next Supreme Court nominees, to insist on the appointment of more moderate justices.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Garbus sees the Rehnquist Court as undermining the ability of both the Federal judiciary and especially Congress to play a prominent role in the progressive evolution of the modern state. A trial attorney who has appeared frequently as a legal commentator on NBC and CNBC, Garbus decries the Court's recent tendency to overturn congressional legislation by declaring unconstitutional the provisions of various bipartisan acts across a wide range of social, economic, and political spectra. Carefully explicating the conflicting Court perceptions of federalism, he paints a vivid picture of internal conflict among the justices. For each major point of constitutional contention, he considers how and where the case originally arose, issues at trial, appellate review, arguments before the Court, the nine justices and where they stand, the majority opinion, and the minority dissent. The author also properly assesses the impact of the dissents, should these someday become the majority viewpoint of the narrowly divided Court. In the current context, the ability of the federal government to exercise its Article I powers is rigidly constrained. As Garbus shows, attempts by Congress to assert its power over gun control, as in the Brady Bill, or to help rape victims, as in the Women Against Violence Act, will be, and have been, struck down as unconstitutional when legislated under the pretext of interstate commerce. Garbus spends more time analyzing case law, while Noonan emphasizes the Court's resolution of constitutional disputes, so the two books complement each other nicely. Highly recommended.
Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Law Lib., New York
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080507287X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805072877
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,876,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martin Garbus is one of the country's top trial lawyers, as well as an author and sought-after speaker. An expert at every level of civil, criminal trial, and litigation, he has appeared before the United States Supreme Court in leading first amendment cases, and his cases have established precedents there and in other courts throughout the country. Marty Garbus and his legal achievements have been recognized by several national publications and with listings in both Who's Who in America and Who's Who in Best Lawyers in America.

Martin Garbus' reputation as one of the country's top attorneys is confirmed by his long and impressive list of clients, for example, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Penguin Books, Al Pacino, and Miramax. Mr. Garbus has also been appointed the attorney/executor/trustee for several high-profile estates, including those of Igor Stravinsky, John Cheever, Marilyn Monroe, and Margaret Mitchell. Recently, Mr. Garbus represented Eric Corley in the first copyright case, a landmark case, tried under the new Digital Millennium Copyright Act. He has represented prisoners of conscience throughout the world.

Marty Garbus is a prolific author with six books and many articles to his credit. His books include The Next 25 Years: How the Supreme Court Will Make You Forget the Meaning of Words Like Privacy, Equality and Freedom and Tough Talk: How I Fought for Writers, Comics, Bigots, and the American Way, a book that examines First Amendment issues and Internet-related media problems. Martin Garbus' articles have appeared in such prominent publications as the New York Times, Media Law & Policy, New York Law Journal, National Law Journal, the Las Angelas Times, and the Washington Post.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bozeman on November 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I've read this, as well as a number of other "political" books recently. I was not hugely impressed by this book, though I believe that is only because I already know and am horrified by what it describes (and therefore did not get much new from it). I wouldn't even have written a review if I had not read a poor review on this site (by a liberal), which talked about how the author's mixing of opinion and fact leaves him open to attack by the right. Hello? This is the problem with liberals; we're too self-analyzing, and too afraid of being attacked. Can you imagine a self-avowed conservative criticising the mindless blather of Ann Coulter's recent book, Slander, for similar reasons? Read this book. Yes, the man mixes opinion and fact, which is to say, he states his opinions and actually backs them up with facts -- an applaudable method that is sadly anathema to many popular political writers.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bruce P. Barten on June 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Martin Garbus is the kind of liberal, idealistic protector of constitutional rights who is not afraid to criticize the direction that the U.S. Supreme Court has been taking most recently. One of the things which seems clearer to me than to Garbus is how the Chief Justice can use his power to select himself to write an opinion, whenever the Chief Justice votes with the majority, to fill the law with criticisms of itself that would seem to be empty remarks if filed in a dissent. In the affirmative action cases, Garbus hardly knows what to call this. "Brennan managed not only to pull together a winning coalition but also to have the chief justice on his side." (p. 234). That was in the case of Fullilove V. Klutznick (1980), in which Chief Justice "Warren Burger, writing the majority opinion, said, `We reject the contention that in the remedial context the Congress must act in a wholly color blind manner.'" (p. 234). Actually, this book has `matter' instead of *manner* at the end of that sentence, but if the case had been about a matter in which Congress had acted totally color blind, it would not have been charged with reverse discrimination, a concept which this book calls "part of the Right's sleight of hand to disguise and obscure the varied purposes of racial preference programs." (p. 227).Read more ›
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11 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Julian P Killingley on October 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I didn't know of the author before I read this book but the cover tells me he is a leading trial lawyer, First Amendment expert and legal commentator for NBC and CBS who has appeared before the US Supreme Court. He's a legal liberal who despairs of the right turn the Supreme Court has taken during Chief Justice Rehnquist's watch. In short he is someone whose views are in tune with my own and whose observations I might be expected to cheer along with. Unfortunately the author's opinionated stance has led him to talk up the threat to the Bill of Rights and leave himself wide open to attack from the Right.
The book is a wide ranging review of Supreme Court activity over the last 20 years aimed at rolling back the liberal decisions of the Warren Court and early Burger Court eras. However, Martin Garbus often blends fact with opinion and seamlessly leads the reader from safe to treacherous ground. Some of his views are inconsistent, such as his portrayal of the jurisprudence of Justice David Souter, while others can only be described as hysterical. His paranoia over the influence of the Federalist Society is heartfelt but unsubstantiated.
I judge this book to be aimed at a popular audience - there are minimal notes and references and it is written in an entertaining and readily accessible style. His book might have escape informed criticism if it never reached a legal audience but, I'm afraid, Mr Garbus's train ran off the tracks for me by page 55. He refers to a 1987 ruling in Stanford v. Kentucky where he claims the Supreme Court had expanded the grounds for a sentence of death. Before then, opines Mr Garbus, the court had reserved the ultimate punishment for triggermen and not accomplices.
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2 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J. Pawlak on September 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have not completely read the book yet (though I have skimmed it considerably). What prompted me to write was what I have read and as I was clicking channels I heard a speaker discuss this book. His concern was regarding medical lawsuits and the need to put a cap on jury outcomes. This prompted me to go online and read a bit. Let me say, that if none of you have been through malpractice, you need to understand that first of all there are caps in place for pain and suffering. I am a sufferer of malpractice. Due to an UNNECESSARY surgery because of a wrong diagnosis, I have had 10 surgeries since and now going on my 11th! I lost my job, have had no income for 2 years, lost all my medical benefits, have used up all my savings to include my retirement fund, have exhausted all my credit cards to survive and after a year am still waiting for social security disability to make a decision on my case. Something I have worked my whole life towards. Trust me, I'd rather be a productive human being verses living my life in bed in excruciating pain for the last 3 1/2 years! In my state the low cap is $360.000 the high cap includes anything from taking a woman's fertility to death of a patient is set at $608.000. The other ruling is for economic loss resulting from the malpractice. There are strict rules regarding this and it is necessary to hire an economic specialist to figure out exactly what your loss of income is from your age of malpractice until your age of retirement, set by our government. Then, for some odd reason it is necessary to reduce this amount to today's value. Don't forget also that you must pay your attorney for all fees plus 1/3 of your settlement.Read more ›
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