To paraphrase the great humorist Finley Peter Dunne, the Constitution follows the flag and the Supreme Court follows the election returns. Journalist and scholar Max Lerner, on the other hand, followed the Supreme Court for more than 60 years. Lerner analyzes the great minds and judicial decisions that have, over the course of his entire career, done so much to shape America's national character. Portraits of John Marshall, Louis Brandeis, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Earl Warren, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and William O. Douglas belie Dunne's comic remark. These fiercely independent thinkers followed no election returns but used their intellect and vision to preserve the American Constitution. Lerner's essays on the Court's moments of both majesty and shame are dedicated "to the newest generation of constitutional students." Among the subjects are "The Supreme Court and American Capitalism," "Watergate as Constitutional Crisis," and "The Bork Wars as Confirmation Crisis." Nonpartisan and clear-eyed, Lerner's discussions of the justices and their most important cases will enrich anyone's understanding of American culture and law. --Nancy Starr
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From Publishers Weekly
Author and columnist, Lerner (1902-1992) gained a reputation as a thoughtful commentator on the Supreme Court in the 1930s and continued such work to his death. This notable volume collects a range of his essays, augmented by his reflective introductions. In the 1930s, Lerner criticized the conservative court majority for invalidating liberal state and New Deal legislation; he also defended FDR's controversial attempt to "pack," or reorganize, the court. In extensive essays he analyzes the greatness of judges John Marshall, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Hugo Black and Robert Jackson. He concludes with observations on the four most recent "Courts"--from Chief Justice Vinson's to Rehnquist's. Though Lerner sympathized with the early efforts of the Warren Court, he became critical of its activist decisions in affirmative action and criminal cases. Lerner describes his court-watching style as "contextual, organismic, integrative, even mythic." His insights have not grown stale. Cummings teaches at Pace University School of Law.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.