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Courtwatchers: Eyewitness Accounts in Supreme Court History

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1442212459
ISBN-10: 1442212454
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Editorial Reviews


Supreme Court books seem to be in perennial demand, by both students and interested readers.
Courtwatchers caters to both groups by offering eyewitness accounts for an insider’s look at the people and cases that have shaped American history. Packed with stories from the 1800s to the present day, this volume also features black-and-white photographs and extensive notes.

Cushman (director of publications, Supreme Court Historical Society) has written a truly entertaining and informative work on the nation's highest court. The chapters are organized around themes such as the first years of the Supreme Court, appointment and confirmation of justices, circuit riding, feuds among the justices, how justices manage their workload, oral argument, a justice's first year on the Court, stories by the law clerks, and how to know when to step down from the Court. Each chapter is completely infused with stories from those who were there, such as the justices, journalists, attorneys, spouses, children, and friends. Drawing from firsthand accounts, journals, letters, interviews, and books, the author has painted as rich a tapestry of life inside the Court as could possibly be imagined. This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the history and culture of the Supreme Court. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. (CHOICE)

Courtwatchers is more readable and fun than any Court history in recent memory. And its very existence stands as a symbol of how much the Court's attitude has changed toward the public's interest in the justices as real people, rather than oracles. (National Liberty Journal)

Too many studies of the Supreme Court are obsessed with ideas and politics with little attention to those who generate them. Clare Cushman provides a meticulously researched and thoroughly accessible antidote to the trend, and, for once the institution emerges with novelistic clarity as a collection of men, and eventually women, with vivid personalities, strong feelings, and every manifestation of the human condition. Cushman wisely relies on first-hand evidence from those on the inside to provide both authenticity and telling detail. A unique work. (Dennis J. Hutchinson, William Rainey Harper Professor, University of Chicago, and editor of The Supreme Court Review)

Opening this book is like peering into a fascinating scrapbook compiled over the centuries by Supreme Court Justices and those who knew them. It is a treat for anyone who cares about the Supreme Court and who wonders how it got to be the way it is today. I enjoyed it very much. (Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who covered the Supreme Court for nearly three decades for The New York Times)

Clare Cushman, one of our most distinguished and experienced veteran Supreme Court observers, has panned a novel and indeed original eyewitness historical account from Court insiders, covering the lives and personalities from Jay though Roberts. Cushman's familiarity with the apposite literature is as remarkable as it is sophisticated, resulting in a fascinating, eminently readable work that will appeal to cognoscente as well as the general public. Courtwatchers represents a major contribution and merits profound attention. (Henry J. Abraham, the James Hart Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia and author of Justices, Presidents, and Senators)

Cushman, the director of publications for the Supreme Court Historical Society, has organized the book into themed chapters that flow freely across the centuries. She includes letters, diary entries, memoranda, and newspaper articles written by justices themselves, their clerks, their spouses, courtroom spectators, attorneys, and reporters. She serves up a potpourri of historical and recent “day-in-the-life” moments that reveal much about the evolution of the court. This tour through American and political history makes for a fascinating trip, bringing us closer to one of our most important institutions

(Middlebury Magazine)

About the Author

Clare Cushman, director of publications for the Supreme Court Historical Society, is the editor of and a contributing writer to The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies and Supreme Court Decisions and Women’s Rights: Milestones to Equality.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (October 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442212454
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442212459
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #913,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Todd C. Peppers on October 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Written by a leading Supreme Court historian, "Courtwatchers" will entertain and educate anyone (scholar or lay person) who is interested in the Supreme Court. While Alexander Hamilton argued that the Supreme Court was the "least dangerous branch" of the new federal government because it had neither the power of the purse nor the sword, Hamilton could not have predicted that the high court would also become the most secretive, most cloistered of the three branches of goverment. Drawing upon an impressive array of primary and secondary sources, Cushman provides the reader with a rare and fascinating peek into this secret world of the justices, their families, and their law clerks. I highly recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on February 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I am pleased to report that this important book on the Supreme Court and its personnel is not only highly informative, but also extremely interesting and pleasant to read. The author, who is Director of Publications at the Supreme Court Historical Society here in Washington (of which I am a member), and the editor of several other volumes relating to the Court, has taken an unusual approach. She lets the Justices, their clerks, and families "speak for themselves." That is, each of the 13 chapters, which cover the entire period of the Court's existence, is drawn from letters, diaries, oral histories, memoirs and Court histories. There is no substitute for letting those with first-hand knowledge of the Court, its personnel and procedures speak in their own candid terms--especially when much of this material was never intended for publication.

The 13 chapters manage to cover virtually any topic that one might imagine relating to the Court and the Justices. For example, chapter topics include riding circuit, the impact of John Marshall, appointments and confirmation, oral arguments, building consensus, the heavy workload, and stepping down (either by death, retirement or resignation). I mention one example in detail: the chapter on "Clerk Stories" loaded with the recollections of former clerks affords a fascinating view of how certain Justices (e.g., Douglas, Rehnquist, Stone, Black, and especially Brandeis) ran their chambers and processed cases. We also gain some solid insight into these young clerks themselves and what they contribute to the work of their Justices. The vital role of clerks in the workings of the Court recently has drawn increasing scholarly attention (e.g., Todd Peppers and Artemus Ward), and this insightful chapter really complements those accounts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on June 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A nice look back on the traditions of the U.S. Supreme Court and on the people, mainly justices, who built this venerable institution.

While at times uneven, the narrative is both educational and enjoyable. Clare Cushman, the author, is a court insider and the few negative stories told here are safely taken from decades or centuries ago.

As an aside, Justice Douglas is mentioned more than a few times and not always in the best of lights. In defense of my fellow native of Yakima, Washington, I would cite the memoirs of Warren Christopher. The former U.S. Secretary of State and one time law clerk to Justice Douglas, said in 2001 of William O. Douglas: "I've never worked closely with a man more brilliant than Douglas."
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By ASK on July 31, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was hoping and expecting more inside information about the workings and daily rituals at the Court.
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