From Publishers Weekly
This is one of the most thorough and incisive guides to date on the thinking and deliberative process of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Yarbrough (The First Justice Harlan), a professor of political science at East Carolina University, characterizes the Rehnquist court's record on civil liberties as decidedly mixed. Although he credits what he calls the "legal pragmatists" (such as Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) with partially derailing the Reagan/Bush conservative repudiation of the Warren era's human rights legacy, he notes that the Court has expanded opportunities for warrantless police searches and extended broad deference to the government in death penalty cases. On issues such as assisted suicide, gay rights and abortion, Yarbrough labels the Rehnquist court arbitrary. This casebook (which is too detailed for most general readers) examines a diversity of controversial cases, ranging from racial gerrymandering to pornography, displays of religious symbols on public property, libel of public figures, disposal of radioactive wastes and possession of firearms in school zones. Citing numerous recent cases signaling what he views as a rebirth of the Supreme Court's special solicitude for propertied and commercial interests, the author suggests that a full tilt in this direction may await only the election of a Republican president. The generally conservative drift of the Rehnquist court's decisions, he argues, raises serious questions about its continued commitment to the principle of equal justice for all. Yarbrough's withering, erudite critique is recommended reading for Supreme Court watchers. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The Supreme Court may be an issue in the presidential election: seven of the justices were named by Republicans; just two (Ginsburg and Breyer) by a Democrat. Since the next
president may nominate several, this analysis of the Rehnquist court is timely. Chief Justice Rehnquist has served nearly 30 years; he was named Chief Justice in 1986. Yarbrough offers brief biographies of sitting justices (including descriptions of the Senate's responses to their nominations) and then outlines how the Supreme Court operates. But the heart of the book is his study of the Rehnquist court's decisions in important areas: governmental power; the "double standard" (the '30s reversal of laissez faire
jurisprudence, scrutinizing regulation of noneconomic matters more closely than economic regulation); unenumerated rights; freedom of religion, expression, and association; criminal justice; and equal protection. Among the shifts Yarbrough notes are "expanded state immunity," movement toward "rejection or substantial modification of the constitutional double standard," and an "arguably unprecedented use . . . [of the] takings clause" in a regulatory context. Mary Carroll