Most helpful positive review
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating look into the law and politics of the Roberts Court
on November 8, 2013
This book provides a fascinating look into the workings of the Roberts Court over the past few years. Tushnet explores the legal arguments and political maneuverings behind cases involving issues such as Obamacare, gun rights, affirmative action, free speech and campaign finance. He also provides insight into the judicial appointment process and describes how conservatives have managed to develop a legal theory that has come to dominate US constitutional jurisprudence. The book is written in clear and plain language, and is highly readable.
Tushnet's central thesis is that the outcome of politically controversial cases cannot simply be attributed to the justices' politics. This is because it is sometimes unclear whether a particular outcome will benefit the Republicans or the Democrats. His argument is that some cases are better understood as having been decided on the judges' view of the legal merits, which is in turn shaped by their judicial philosophies. While these philosophies could be described as being "conservative" or "liberal" in nature, the application of these philosophies in particular cases sometimes produces results that deviate from the corresponding partisan agenda of the day.
However, it is not entirely clear why Tushnet thinks that the Supreme Court is or will be shaped by a battle for intellectual dominance between Roberts and Kagan. He provides little support for this hypothesis - in most of the cases he cites, there is no evidence that Kagan played a leading role in pulling the votes or marshaling the arguments for the liberal camp. In fact, I would say that the book description is misleading in this regard because Tushnet does not explore this issue in much depth, so readers who pick up this book because they are interested in this particular issue will likely be disappointed.
Finally, please ignore the absurd review by "Babs" who is not just guilty of giving a bad review to a book that he/she has not read simply because he/she disagrees with the author's politics, but also of getting the author's politics completely wrong. Having read the book, it is clear that Tushnet has liberal, not conservative, leanings. Furthermore, he is not uniformly liberal-leaning - for certain cases, such Citizens United, he seems to favour (what is usually thought to be) the conservative position. That said, I found him to be fairly even-handed in presenting the arguments for both sides of each issue, regardless of his own views.