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Scalia: A Court of One Hardcover – June 10, 2014
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“A compelling biography of one of the most conservative, combative, and bombastic Supreme Court Justices in our nation’s history. . . . A terrific start to understanding Justice Scalia and his impact on American constitutional law.” (Kevin J. Hamilton The Seattle Times)
“[A] fair-minded biography. . . . Murphy's deeper and more scholarly focus on Scalia offers . . . an opportunity to study one justice's progress from the Reagan administration's great right hope to the more problematic character he's become.” (Paul M. Barrett The San Francisco Chronicle)
“May be the most exhaustive treatment of a sitting justice ever written. . . . Scalia is a skeptical, often critical look at its subject, but free of snark; it does its readers the service of taking Scalia’s ideas seriously.” (Jeff Shesol The New York Times Book Review)
“An intellectual biography of one of [the Supreme Court’s] most colorful members. . . . A lucid account of a wide variety of topics through the lens of judicial biography.” (Alexander Tsesis The Chicago Tribune)
“Thoroughly researched and accessible . . . a lively and informative account of Scalia’s upbringing; his education at Georgetown University, where he excelled in debate; his academic career at the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago; his work in the Nixon administration in the offices of telecommunication policy and legal counsel (in the Department of Justice); and his years on the bench.” (Glenn C. Altschuler The Boston Globe)
"In Bruce Allen Murphy, Scalia has met a timely and unintimidated biographer ready to probe. . . . In his view, understanding one of the most dazzling and polarizing jurists on the Supreme Court entails, above all, examining the inevitably murky relationship between judicial decision making and religious devotion. . . . Murphy does not shrink from adjudicating Scalia’s dueling public claims: that separating faith from public life is impossible and, at the same time, that he himself has done just that on the Court." (Dahlia Lithwick The Atlantic)
“Murphy does Scalia the unwarranted honor of treating originalism seriously but does not flinch when he gets to the bottom line: At least in Scalia's hands, originalism is not a method of judicial interpretation, it is a device to import his values into the Constitution.” (Jim Newton The Los Angeles Times)
"Endlessly fascinating . . . Scalia offers a deep examination of the man and his work, one certain to ignite the passions of partisans in our increasingly polarized nation." (Jay Strafford Richmond Times-Dispatch)
“A deeply probing biography of the controversial Supreme Court justice. . . . Murphy moves case by case in an evenhanded, thoroughgoing study.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Murphy gives Scalia’s intellect and influence its due. . . . What is strong in Scalia — and what probably irks so many fans of Scalia — is that Murphy does a good job poking holes in Scalia’s strict textual interpretation of the Constitution.” (Tom Deignan Newark Star-Ledger)
“In the long run, will Justice Scalia’s legacy be that of a solo pilot as the title of this book suggests? Or will it be that of a jurist who reinvigorated an interpretive idea that launched a thousand jurisprudential ships? Will his unwillingness to build consensus at the expense of his orthodoxy be judged as an egotistical mistake or a principled advantage?. . . . Scalia provides a rich and needed body of information by which to begin to answer such questions.” (Ronald K.L. Collins The Washington Independent Review of Books)
"Comprehensively researched, accessible, and fascinating. . . . Recommended for friend and foe alike of Nino to undersatnd just what the Supreme Court is up to." (Library Journal (starred review))
“A highly engaged, well-researched analysis of a brash justice whose single-mindedness may ultimately reduce his legacy.” (Booklist (starred review))
“[A] penetrating biography. . . . Murphy's thoughtful analysis of Scalia's intellectual journey shows just how difficult it is to straitjacket the Constitution within a narrow interpretation.” (Publishers Weekly)
“A significant achievement.” (Michael O'Donnell Washington Monthly)
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Top Customer Reviews
Murphy's biography is longer, more in-depth, and more extensively researched than Biskupic's, but is less readable and makes no pretense to be even-handed. Murphy, a political science professor at Lafayette College, specializes in hard-hitting exposes of Supreme Court Justices. His earlier biographies of Abe Fortas and William O. Douglas, though useful and well-researched, spared readers no tawdry details of their subjects' flawed characters. This book adopts a similar kind of "gotcha" approach.
Unlike Biskupic, Murphy conducted few personal interviews. Instead, he draws heavily on public sources and archival records. The result is a scholarly but somewhat plodding and relentlessly critical biography. It is really the tale of two Scalias. The first is Scalia the Golden Boy: the gregarious, straight-laced Italian immigrant's son, who finished first in his class in high school and Georgetown, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard Law School, rose quickly in his early career as a corporate lawyer, law professor, and government official, raised a model family, stayed true to his faith and his principles, and seemed to do everything right. The second Scalia is of the Golden-Boy-Corrupted.Read more ›
For me, the book's greatest asset is its meticulous analysis of how Justice Scalia developed his various interpretive theories--probably his most lasting achievement. One can read long articles on this topic, but what Murphy has done is to trace this development over time, context by context, as the bio unfolds. I found myself having a much more comprehensive understanding of Scalia's approaches (yes, he does "evolve" over time) than before. For Scalia and judicial conservatives generally, methodology is everything. Murphy also carefully differentiates Scalia's positions from those of Judge Bork and Justice Thomas, as well as others.
Murphy also tackles the toughest issue about Scalia--could he have been a more influential figure? On the one hand, clearly his originalist theory has had a substantial impact on how the Constitution is interpreted by judges, scholars, and others. Yet, on the other, his explosive personality relative to his Court colleagues has cost him the ability to become the conservative leader of the Court. Justice Kennedy and (Murphy suggests after the Obamacare decision) the Chief Justice may now rightly claim that title.Read more ›
The book describes Justice Scalia's beginnings, including his earlier years, upbringing and early education. The focus, however, is upon his time on the Supreme Court. It reviews his service on the court from the beginning and through the most recent terms. Throughout the book, Murphy takes the attack approach about Scalia's opinions, dissents, speeches, and public comments, highlighting the negative elements of all of these. He then goes on to make value judgements about why Scalia says what he says and acts how he does, and therefore brands the man as volatile and childish man, which I refuse to accept as true. One thing that is lacking in Murphy's character assassination is the attribution of his sources when he makes a specific claim. While I appreciate that he may have obtained his materials under confidence, it seems hardly possible that he is unable to tell us who told him ANY of the things he shares in the book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I stopped reading it after it became obvious this was a hit piece by a leftist with no intention of providing a fair summary of Scalia.Published 6 days ago by Iceman2475
This is an extremely well written and accurate biography of one of the most influential jurists ever to sit on the US Supreme Court. Read morePublished 2 months ago by CLAW 907
The book was well researched but Murphy wrote the book with the intent to make Scalia look a certain way which was a disservice to readers.Published 2 months ago by Eric Fischer
Murphy does an excellent job of demonstrating how Scalia defined terms in such a way as to always reach the conclusion in line with his personal preferences.Published 2 months ago by Richard Alan Kolber
A well researched book. What really stands out is the coverage of Scalia outside SCOTUS. His travel, speeches, and associations have been eveluated, and there impact on the... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Thomas H. Daly