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Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court Hardcover – Deckle Edge

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Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court + The Roberts Court: The Struggle for the Constitution + The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; F First Edition, 1st Printing edition (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812993926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993929
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Since retiring from the Supreme Court, O’Connor, the first woman justice, has pushed for greater civic awareness of how the U.S. government, especially the court system, works. In this collection of stories about the history of the Supreme Court, O’Connor offers a sense of how the high court has changed since its formation and how it works in relation to the legislature and the presidency. She recounts Roosevelt’s failed attempts to pack the court after repeated rulings against parts of his New Deal program and Truman’s failed efforts to control the steel mills during the Korean War, when strikes were threatened. She also offers the history of how the once itinerant court came to be located in its stately building and how the court’s customs, including the art of arguing before the court, have changed from lengthy oratory to briefings peppered by the justices’ questioning. She recalls some of the larger-than-life justices, the history-making “firsts,” and some lighter moments on the bench. Photos and illustrations enhance this engaging look at the history of the Supreme Court. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This personal look at an American institution from the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court will attract plenty of off-the-book-page interest. --Vanessa Bush


“[A] succinct, snappy account of how today’s court—so powerful, so controversial and so frequently dissected by the media—evolved from such startlingly humble and uncertain beginnings.”The New York Times
“A brief and accessible history of the nation’s highest court, narrated by a true historical figure and a jurisprudential giant.”—The Boston Globe
“A vibrantly personal book [that] displays O’Connor’s uncommon common sense, her dry wit and her reverence for the nation’s institutions.”Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Full of riveting anecdotes . . . a compact history . . . albeit a more lighthearted, personality-filled one than you might find in a high school classroom.”—Associated Press
“Candid, opinionated and even entertaining throughout . . . a well-considered, lively survey of what the Supreme Court does, how it’s constituted and, bonus round, how to argue before it.”Kirkus Reviews

“In this delightful collection of tales, Sandra Day O’Connor shows us the personal side of the Supreme Court while reminding us of the critical role the Court plays. It’s a lovely book—and a valuable treasure for all Americans.”—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs
“A maker of history, Sandra Day O’Connor proves herself an engaging historian in this fine book, taking us inside perhaps the most important and least understood institution in American life: the Supreme Court. With her characteristic clear-eyed common sense and a natural talent for storytelling, Justice O’Connor has given us a valuable and entertaining gift.”—Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
“We have always known that Sandra Day O’Connor was a wise and thoughtful Justice of the Supreme Court. But we haven’t always appreciated what a talented storyteller and historian she is as well. This, her most recent book, contains succinct and readable stories from the history of the Supreme Court, and it nicely demonstrates that remarkable talent.”—Gordon S. Wood, author of The Idea of America
“Justice O’Connor has written an insightful and charming insider’s take on the workings of the Supreme Court of the United States throughout history. A historical figure herself—the first woman to sit on the Court—O’Connor is the perfect guide through the twists and turns that have made the Court such a powerful force in shaping American society from the Founding to present times.”—Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello
“Justice O’Connor has written a brief  history of the Supreme Court that is lively, informative, and often inspiring. Drawing on her own experience and wisdom, she is giving us a civics lesson, but it’s like nothing you remember from high school.”—Evan Thomas, author of Ike’s Bluff

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Customer Reviews

It was an interesting and informative history of the Supreme Court.
John A. Mccormack
This book is just simply "okay", and I'm sad to say that I just wanted more.
James Hiller
Very dry reading and certainly not a book you pick up for a good read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 116 people found the following review helpful By David Wineberg TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Out of Order is far from it. It is a highly structured, superficial and trivial summary of the history of the Supreme Court. It continually returns to the era of George Washington, first to list all the Supreme Court justices named by every president, in order, and then back again to list all the buildings the Supreme Court has ever occupied, from George Washington's administration to the present building, inaugurated during the Depression. Then it's back for a tour of all the variations of the oath of office through the centuries. Later - how justices retire through the ages.

For a major public discourse of the first woman Supreme Court justice, this is a letdown. I was hoping for some sort of insight into the all-male enclave. Instead, we get a history that pretty much anybody with Wikipedia could have written. A high school textbook lovesong to the Supreme Court.

The section on humor is particularly embarrassing. But then, Justice O'Connor owns up to her rating of seventh out of nine in sense of humor. She should not have written that chapter.

This is a badly misnamed book.

The one thing Justice O'Connor could have offered us was the insider's view of the goings on at the Supreme Court Building. Unfortunately, the deepest we get is her revelation that (junior) Justice Kagan has used her position as manager of the cafeteria to introduce yogurt and pretzels to the Supreme Court.

Finally, the book suddenly ends at page 131. That's it. That's all there is, except for a reprinting of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which is probably not why you bought this book. In fact, there is no reason to buy this book, as anyone with access to wikipedia could put together the same string of trivia.
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42 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Stephen O. Murray VINE VOICE on March 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Having already published two unrevealing written-down (to middle-school reading level) memoirs, Sandra Day O'Connor, the upbeat and amiable first woman to be a justice on the US Supreme Court (1981-2006) has authored (or at least bylined) another book of "Gee whiz!" stories about customs of court (important things like the order of entering or egressing from the public chambers, wan attempts to show a lighter side of that merry prankster Gilbet-and-Sullivan-fan William Rehnquist, and the dry wit of David Souter). She also provides verbal sketches about some colorful justices and advocates of yore that are less informative than Wikipedia entries. I'm not saying the book was researched on line; there are references to hard-copy publications in the notes. But I suspect a less superficial book than this one could have been derived entirely from Wikipedia.

Though providing a detailed history of the two oaths of office and which justice took which one where, O'Connor provides absolutely no consideration of (let alone any insight) into how the justices reach decisions either in general or the infamous opinions such as Bush v. Gore and Bowers v. Hardwick in which O'Connor was in the bare majorities. She says her aim in writing the book was to "share" information about what happens among Supreme Court justices not "between bangs of the gavel," yet the only discussion of how that body functions in doing its job is a bit on the presentation of oral arguments in the cases (now about 90 a year) that the court hears. Justices of yore sat through lengthy orations by Daniel Webster and other less gifted advocates, but now listen hardly at all, interrupting at will the half hour advocates for each side have to clarify the arguments made in written briefs of no more than 15,000 words.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. Smiley on March 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The blurb makes this book sound fascinating, at least, if you have any interest in the Supreme Court. "With unparalleled insight and her unique perspective as a history-making figure, Justice O'Connor takes us on a personal exploration.... We get a rare glimpse into the Supreme Court's inner workings: how cases are chosen for hearing; the personal relationships that exist among the Justices; and the customs and traditions, both public and private, that bind one generation of jurists to the next...." Unfortunately, that's just the publishers' wishful thinking; barely a word of what I just quoted is true. Well, except for the public traditions: the book spends a good 11 pages on oath-taking. But "candid" it is decidedly not.

Essentially, Out of Order is a brief (165 pages of text, followed by the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and references) and basic introduction to the U.S. Supreme Court. Its chapters cover topics such as famous clashes between the Court and the presidents; the various buildings in which the Court has been housed; the early tradition of circuit-riding; and biographical sketches of a few famous justices.

Justice O'Connor handily avoids the opportunity to include personal insights, stories or opinions. For instance, the chapter on judicial appointments simply lists presidents, their appointees, and what the people in question are best-known for, without a hint of an opinion on the appointment process or discussion of the author's own confirmation hearings. And rather than providing insight into how the Court chooses which cases to hear, O'Connor simply quotes the relevant Supreme Court Rule.
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