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Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion Hardcover – October 4, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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--Kirkus Reviews"'Justice Brennan' provides the most comprehensive and well-organized look at the legendary liberal jurist to date. Stern and Wermiel dig below the popular cliche of Bill Brennan as the Constitution's Gene Kelly, all twinkling eyes and glad-to-see-ya Irish charm,” to reveal the complicated (and quite conservative) man beneath."
--The New York Times
"Those who want to understand the glory and the contradictions of a true progressive jurist should buy the first full-length biography, Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion, by Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel."
--The Atlantic Online
"Brennan made a huge mark on our Constitution, and Stern and Wermiel illuminate his legacy remarkably well."
--Christian Science Monitor
"The definitive [Brennan] biography...a detailed and fascinating account... Both legal scholars and general readers will be delighted with this well-written, superbly documented biography."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"This sweeping biography of one of the most influential justices ever to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States invites the reader to witness the details of William J. Brennan Jr.'s personal life, the darker moments, as well as those that shine. It seats the reader in Brennan's chambers to listen to his conversations and see the memoranda exchanged with other justices and his law clerks ... In sum, the biography is an intimate account of Brennan's life, especially his 34 years on the Court."
--Newark Star Ledger
"The book offers an intelligent and interesting account both of Brennan's decades on the Court and of the broader developments in American life that intertwined with the Court's work."
--Ed Whelan, National Review Online
"The book takes care to place decisions and opinions in the context of Brennan's personal history, judicial philosophy and larger societal factors. It's deliciously gossipy when discussing how certain justices voted and what their opinions were of each other, but that information's also vital when understanding how the court operated."
--Dan Herman, Pacific Northwest Inlander
View some historical documents from Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion [PDF].
Top Customer Reviews
There was little in Brennan's early years to suggest the impact his career would have on the country. The son of an Irish immigrant who had made a career in New Jersey politics, Brennan worked hard to obtain an education. Graduation from Harvard Law School led to a job with Newark's preeminent legal firm, followed by wartime service and appointment to the New Jersey state bench. Brennan's background (particularly his Roman Catholicism) and his work in court reform led to his nomination to the Supreme Court by President Eisenhower, where he soon emerged as one of the Court's most prominent liberals in an era characterized by landmark decisions that helped to transform the nation. Though many of these decisions generated a political backlash that shifted the Court to the right and halted further progress, Brennan succeeded in entrenching many of his earlier gains with later decisions that preserved his legacy as a justice.Read more ›
One of the most interesting aspects of the book is how it came about. Apparently after the appearance of "The Brethren" (1979). Brennan became concerned about his public image. In 1986, he met with Stephen Wermiel, then covering the Court for the "Wall Street Journal," and agreed to cooperate in developing a biography. On top of 60 recorded interviews, Wermiel was given access to Brennan's papers, including "term histories" compiled by his clerks recounting important cases with which the Justice had been involved. Co-author Seth Stern took over lead writing responsibilities after Wermiel became an American University law professor, and he conducted further interviews and reviewed additional written sources such as conference notes and other material. In my experience, it is very unusual for such cooperation to be forthcoming from a Justice; the downside is that what we get primarily is Brennan's take on things, although the authors are fairly even-handed in their assessments. In any regard, what we are interested in are Brennan's views of the Court during his service, and they certainly come through loud and clear here.Read more ›
Even conservatives who hated him admit that Justice William J. Brennan Jr. was an exceptionally effective Supreme Court Justice and that the decisions which he shepherded through to a majority vote on the Court still affect how justice is administered in the United States and the protections afforded to us under the civil liberties clauses in the Bill of Rights. In a thirty-four-year tenure on the Court (1956-90), he succeeded in broadening existing rights and creating new ones (especially under the "right to privacy", which he helped craft behind the scenes) for women, including access to abortion, minorities, homosexuals, the poor and the press. In the process, he became not only the most effective liberal justice to serve on the Supreme Court but also the most hated by his opponents. Indeed, the backlash we see now with the Court's "strict constructionists" can be seen in large part as a reaction to the image of an activist court championed by Brennan and his beloved Chief, Chief Justice Earl Warren.
This book was delayed so long in appearing -Brennan had granted Wermiel access to his papers but Wermeil put the unfinished notes aside in the late nineties--that other revelations -by Harry Blackmun, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, etc.--have partly superceded it. Nonetheless, this is the most deliberative and the fairest book yet to appear on Brennan and his achievement as a justice. It is especially valuable for the way it shows how Brennan built coalitions on the Court.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great look at one of the nation's greatest Supreme Court Justices and the legendary Warren CourtPublished 22 days ago by Scott Stone
Enjoyable read, regardless of your political persuasion. Sadly, the reality of how cases are decided in the federal system now is nothing like what you read in these biographies of... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Earl Key Jr
I did not like this book at all. Found it to be very dry and boring. If you like legal history or biographical portrayals of justices, read Jeffrey Toobin's books. Read morePublished 13 months ago by benny turdgeon
I am only part way into reading this impressive book, but I highly recommend it and the contributions of Justice Brennan.Published 18 months ago by Thomas E. Reed
Not sure I would go for this being conservative, but the story is important and well told.
We want great people on this court this book certainly tells us Justice... Read more
“Justice Brennan” provides the most comprehensive and well organized look at the liberal jurist to date. Too bad it was not released closer to his death in 1997. Read morePublished on March 23, 2014 by Jean
I got what I wanted at a price I could not believe. The book condition was like new. This is the way to go.Published on September 23, 2013 by A. D. Nath
A well written history of advancement of civil liberties through court action. This period of court history changed America toward "a more perfect union".Published on December 26, 2012 by Jill Metz
The early chapters of the book provide useful details to help the reader understand the significant role that Justice Brennan would play in developing American jurisprudence. Read morePublished on September 1, 2012 by Carol C.