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A History of the Supreme Court [Paperback]

by Bernard Schwartz
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 23, 1995 0195093879 978-0195093872 Reprint
When the first Supreme Court convened in 1790, it was so ill-esteemed that its justices frequently resigned in favor of other pursuits. John Rutledge stepped down as Associate Justice to become a state judge in South Carolina; John Jay resigned as Chief Justice to run for Governor of New York; and Alexander Hamilton declined to replace Jay, pursuing a private law practice instead. As Bernard Schwartz shows in this landmark history, the Supreme Court has indeed travelled a long and interesting journey to its current preeminent place in American life.
In A History of the Supreme Court, Schwartz provides the finest, most comprehensive one-volume narrative ever published of our highest court. With impeccable scholarship and a clear, engaging style, he tells the story of the justices and their jurisprudence--and the influence the Court has had on American politics and society. With a keen ability to explain complex legal issues for the nonspecialist, he takes us through both the great and the undistinguished Courts of our nation's history. He provides insight into our foremost justices, such as John Marshall (who established judicial review in Marbury v. Madison, an outstanding display of political calculation as well as fine jurisprudence), Roger Taney (whose legacy has been overshadowed by Dred Scott v. Sanford), Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo, and others. He draws on evidence such as personal letters and interviews to show how the court has worked, weaving narrative details into deft discussions of the developments in constitutional law. Schwartz also examines the operations of the court: until 1935, it met in a small room under the Senate--so cramped that the judges had to put on their robes in full view of the spectators. But when the new building was finally opened, one justice called it "almost bombastically pretentious," and another asked, "What are we supposed to do, ride in on nine elephants?" He includes fascinating asides, on the debate in the first Court, for instance, over the use of English-style wigs and gowns (the decision: gowns, no wigs); and on the day Oliver Wendell Holmes announced his resignation--the same day that Earl Warren, as a California District Attorney, argued his first case before the Court. The author brings the story right up to the present day, offering balanced analyses of the pivotal Warren Court and the Rehnquist Court through 1992 (including, of course, the arrival of Clarence Thomas).
In addition, he includes four special chapters on watershed cases: Dred Scott v. Sanford, Lochner v. New York, Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade. Schwartz not only analyzes the impact of each of these epoch-making cases, he takes us behind the scenes, drawing on all available evidence to show how the justices debated the cases and how they settled on their opinions.
Bernard Schwartz is one of the most highly regarded scholars of the Supreme Court, author of dozens of books on the law, and winner of the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award. In this remarkable account, he provides the definitive one-volume account of our nation's highest court.

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A History of the Supreme Court + A March of Liberty: A Constitutional History of the United States, Volume 1: From the Founding to 1900 + Documents of American Constitutional and Legal History: Volume 1: From the Founding to 1896 (Documents of American Constitutional & Legal History)
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bernard Schwartz's history treats the Court as "both a mirror and a motor--reflecting the development of the society which it serves and helping to move that society in the direction of the dominant jurisprudence of the day." Beginning with the 17th-century writings of Sir Edward Coke, which shaped much of the legal thinking of America's Founding Fathers, Schwartz considers each of the major eras of the Supreme Court's tenure, from its first term in 1790 (held in New York City) to the Rehnquist years. There are also four chapters that deal specifically with watershed cases: Dred Scott v. Sandford, Lochner v. New York, Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade. Schwartz marshals a substantial amount of historical information to carry the story forward without getting stuck on minutiae.

From Publishers Weekly

Constitution scholar Schwartz ( Super Chief: Earl Warren and His Supreme Court ) provides a thorough, balanced and readable chronological overview of the highest court in the land. He mixes biographical sketches of justices like John Marshall with insightful analyses of major decisions, offering also a close look at four watershed cases, e.g., those regarding desegregation and abortion. Schwartz's account of the modern court, especially that headed by Warren, is lively and savvy, with a moderate-liberal slant. His history of the earlier court is less journalistic; nevertheless, he shows how the court slowly grew in role and stature, and how its decisions contributed vitally to an expanding federal economy and the rise of corporations. While Schwartz at times judiciously reevaluates scholarly controversies--such as his upgrade of long-denounced Dred Scott jurist Roger Taney--he skirts such issues as the growing argument that the right to abortion should be based on equal protection rather than privacy rights.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; Reprint edition (February 23, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195093879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195093872
  • Product Dimensions: 3.6 x 2.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #564,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

BERNARD L. SCHWARTZ is an investor, a retired industrialist, a progressive public policy advocate, and a philanthropist. For thirty-four years he served as chairman and CEO of Loral Corporation and its successor company, Loral Space & Communications. Loral, a Fortune 200 defense electronics firm, achieved revenues of nearly $7.5 billion and employed 38,000 people at its height. Mr. Schwartz also formed and served as CEO of K & F Industries and Globalstar Telecommunications. He is currently chairman and CEO of BLS Investments, LLC, a private investment firm, and he also manages the investments of the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Foundation, which invests in think tanks, universities, and advocacy organizations, specifically targeting programs that develop policies focusing on US economic growth and job-creation initiatives. It also supports institutes of higher education, medical research, and New York City-based cultural organizations. Mr. Schwartz and his wife are lifelong Democrats and active supporters of the Democratic Party.They were born in Brooklyn and have resided in New York City all their lives. Visit him at www.bernardlschwartz.com. A March 20th videotaped conversation between Charlie Rose and Mr. Schwartz may be viewed here (https://vimeo.com/89884335). An interview with the author by Bill Baker, president emeritus of WNET, New York's public television station, is available for viewing here (https://vimeo.com/88217984).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Judges, Judgements, and Judicial Review December 21, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bernard Schwartz's "A History of the Supreme Court" is a readable if dry narrative of the 200 years of the Supreme Court between John Jay and William Rhenquist. The story of the supreme court is a complicated one, and for the most part, Schwartz tells it well. If his book is short on analysis and long on description, it is probably more due to the nature of the subject then to the qualities of the author.

Schwartz focuses on two main themes in the narrative. The first one, addressed in the Prologue and in the first few chapters, deal with the practice of Judicial Review in Anglo-Saxon common law, and especially in the early US, where under Chief Justice Marshall, the supreme court has been established as SUPREME - that is, in position to pass judgment on State legislators, State courts, and even the US Congress.

The theme is very prominent in the early history of the Court, where the Supreme Court fulfilled its Hamiltonian role as the final authority on the constitutionality of law. Very early, US Justices have proved that they were every bit the politicians as the Jurists - Chief Marshall successfully established Judicial Review in his Marbury vs. Madison decision, while Roger B Taney catastrophically endangered it in his attempt to end the political crisis of the Union via his Dred Scott Decision.

Later in the book, Schwartz still devotes time to the question of Judicial Review, but then in a new disguise - that of Judicial restraint, which Schwartz first sees in the actions of Roger B Taney, but which were only manifested plainly in the dissents of Oliver Wendell Holmes, most famously in the Lochner vs. New York case (1905), where the majority judges, led by Rufus W.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Prof. Schwartz' book is the best I have read on the subject to date, and as a Judge, I have a particular interest in the Supreme Court. Schwartz' writing flows, and his knowledge is second to none. I recommend this book to anyone even casually interested in the Supreme Court. He really brings this subject to life.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Overview September 4, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Supreme Court history books are ridiculously difficult to find. In part, it's because the Supreme Court is notoriously secretive about its inner workings; in part, it's because to outline a history of the Supreme Court is by necessity to cover law as it applies to the Constitution, which can be pretty dry stuff.
I was vigilant, however. And in Bernard Schwartz's 1993 _A History of the Supreme Court_, I found almost the perfect book for what I was looking for: a non-lawyer's history of the Supreme Court.
Schwartz begins with a quick history of judicial review, the founding principle of the Supreme Court. He also goes into some detail as to the Judiciary Acts and how they affected the Court over the years. I admit: I found this section dry. However, once Schwartz began covering the specific Justices (organized by era according to the Chief Justice that presided over time), things pick up, and I really began to feel like I was learning something useful.
Schwartz also covers four of what he considers to be "watershed" cases, and goes into some detail as to the reason why the cases were accepted, deliberations, and how each justice reacted in deciding the cases. The four cases -- Dred Scott v. Sandford, Lochner v. New York, Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade -- are certainly landmark cases, and really provide a good deal of continuity from one era to the next of the Supreme Court.
I would have liked for Schwartz to have been slightly less even handed with his commentary; he acts as an apologist for both Taney and Burger, and I have little sympathy for the two men even after reading about them from a fairly sympathetic point of view.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing else better -- for better or worse July 23, 2006
Format:Paperback
I give five stars for three reasons. First, unlike many other legal histories it has few Latin phrases and most legal terms are explained. Second, the competition is multivolume tombs, most of which are very out dated, so this is by default the best book out there. Third, arguably, every major justice and case that shaped the philosophy of Constitutional Law is covered. It is remarkable that such long history can be meaningfully condensed into one book. It is an excellent reference to look up subjects that appear in books, news and current events. It is essential for understanding Constitutional Law.

For a faster read try skimming through some of the drier (or less well written) biographical descriptions, which are relatively easy to weed out. Schwartz covers some of the most interesting aspects of the early court when the Justices also served on the federal circuit court, spending as much as six months of the year traveling cross country under the most brutal conditions. Schwartz describes the evolution of Constitutional Law involving the struggle between the federal and state governments leading up to and after the Civil War. His coverage of Holmes during the development of the modern system of federal government is very good, although sometimes biased with Schwartz's liberal views. Schwartz goes into special detail for Civil Rights with chapters on Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. Roe not only concerns abortion, it also establishes for the first time the Constitutionality of autonomy: the right to choose medical treatment, raise a family when and how you wish, as well as a right to shape your intellect and personality - and that is a fascinating read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book But It May Not Be What Every Reader Is Looking For
"A History of the Supreme Court" is a nicely written institutional history of, well, of the Supreme Court. However, it's not really a history of the U.S. Read more
Published 4 months ago by not me
5.0 out of 5 stars Great information presented in an interesting way
This book manages to put a human perspective on the history of the Supreme Court by providing anecdotes in order to create a historical context. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jaz2099
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Reference Book
Bernard Schwartz "History of the Supreme Court" is a good reference book to have in your library. The book is not a light read but it is a thorough treatise of how the Supreme... Read more
Published 22 months ago by kariedi
3.0 out of 5 stars A History of the Supreme Court
I have a mixed opinion of the book, "A History of the Supreme Court." Though I gave it 3 stars, there are short comings. Read more
Published on January 3, 2012 by JohnnnyD
4.0 out of 5 stars Paradigm
This is a fascinating treatment of subject matter which, all too easily, could have been an exercise in boredom, but somebody needs to supply the author with a thesaurus. Read more
Published on July 5, 2010 by John
5.0 out of 5 stars Good concise view of the dynamics of Supreme Court history
A number of aspects of this book make it very readable. Certainly, the four watershed cases, each presented with some detail and background, are good reading, and each highlights... Read more
Published on August 9, 2006 by K.S.Ziegler
3.0 out of 5 stars The best single volume history of the Supreme Court
Schwatz's history is easily accesible and not bogged down with too much technical jargin. This book is best for non-students of the Court for it offers little more than an overview... Read more
Published on December 21, 2002 by R. Price
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding History
My interest is in American history in general, not the Supreme Court or American law in particular, and I found this book very good in its treatment of the issues, the... Read more
Published on November 30, 1999 by Mary A. Recktenwalt
5.0 out of 5 stars A lucid and enjoyable overview
As a University of Tulsa College of Law Alum, I was fortunate enough to have been instructed in Constitutional Law by Professor Schwartz. Read more
Published on November 15, 1997 by Chris Roberts(a0009217@airmail.net
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