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The Partisan: The Life of William Rehnquist Hardcover – October 2, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A. Jenkins, editor of CQ Press and a veteran legal journalist, traces the life of William Rehnquist (1924‚--ì2005), who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 by President Nixon and became chief justice in 1986. As Jenkins underscores, Rehnquist's years as chief justice were characterized by a markedly conservative shift in Supreme Court jurisprudence. Jenkins takes the view that Rehnquist was an ideologue rather than a legal scholar and theorist, it his "expedient and unyielding conservatism" most apparent in his view that federalism, the balance between the states and the federal government, had "revolutionary potential" ‚--ìsa potential the authorhe says, has been realized in chief justice Roberts's court. And while Jenkins is an informed and balanced commentator on the politics surrounding presidential appointments to the Court, Rehnquist's legal legacy, and relationships among the justices, he is equally interested in Rehnquist the man‚--îhis character, his predilections, his demons. Jenkins offers a mixed but often unflattering view of Rehnquist. There are also revelations for those who have not been Court cognoscenti, foremost among them Rehnquist's long battle with an addiction to prescription pain-killers. In an accessible and satisfying biography, Jenkins finds the right balance between the law and the man, the legal and the human. Agemt: Jane Dystel, Dystel and Goderich Literary Management.

From Booklist

In 1985, Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist sat for an in-depth interview with Jenkins for a profile in the New York Times Magazine. Famous for his distrust of the press, it was Rehnquist’s last such interview. On his death, in 2005, Rehnquist left no memoir and until now there’s been no biography. Drawing on journals Rehnquist kept and records at the Rehnquist Library at Stanford University, Jenkins offers the first full look at the career of the justice, who advanced conservative ideals above individual rights from the time he came on the court, in 1972, until his death. His legacy continues through his successor and former clerk, John Roberts. Jenkins details Rehnquist’s libertarianism, involvement with Goldwater Republicans, and path to having President Nixon appoint him to the Supreme Court with the expectation that Rehnquist would steer the court rightward. Jenkins illuminates both the human side of Rehnquist, his parsimony and addiction to prescription painkillers, and his judicial philosophy, which generated little in the way of law but which supported a strong conservative court agenda for 33 years. --Vanessa Bush

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586488872
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586488871
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #807,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on October 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We have many solid studies of the Rehnquist Court, but this is the first full-scale biography of the Chief (1924-1995) himself. It can best be described as a "no holds barred" rather critical view, but one that adds importantly to our understanding of this significant Supreme Court figure. And it has some interesting surprises as well.

The book generally follows a chronological approach, tracing Rehnquist's life from his childhood in Wisconsin, to his wartime service as a meteorologist, his undergraduate years at Stanford and his outstanding law school studies. The book really picks up with the author's discussion of Rehnquist's clerkship with Justice Robert Jackson. Thanks to the efforts of Professor John Q. Barrett, Jackson recently has been re-emerging as a significant figure. The clerkship is important for two principal reasons: (1) by this point in time, the author suggests, WHR's conservative orientation was set in stone, which made him uncomfortable with his fellow clerks whom he considered soft on Communism and way too liberal; and (2) it is during the clerkship, that Rehnquist wrote the infamous memo on the Brown desegregation case that would cause him great difficulties during both of his confirmation hearings.

The author paints Rehnquist as a Janus-featured individual: outwardly jolly but inwardly brooding. All I can say is that at my interactions with the Chief at Supreme Court Historical Society meetings, he was as pleasant and happy a person as one could expect. Early on, the author suggests, WHR became dedicated to heavy use of the death penalty and for vigorous criminal enforcement, including limitations on habeas corpus. The author next discusses his years in Phoenix and his alliance with the Goldwater 1964 campaign and work with Richard Kleindienst.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jean on June 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Jenkins is a well known journalist who scored major interviews with Chief Justice Rehnquist in 1984. That material plus extensive research resulted in the book “The Partisan: the life of William Rehnquist”. The book tells the start of the Chief Justice’s rise from a conservative, middleclass Milwaukee upbringing, to the highest grades in his class at Stanford Law School, to playing lead roles in President Richard Nixon’s Office of Legal Counsel, the appointment to the Supreme Court in 1972 by President Nixon to the appointment as Chief Justice in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. I got the feeling that Jenkins was having difficulty in remaining unbiased in writing this book. I noted some frustration and anger on the part of Jenkins as he paints Rehnquist an “ardent segregationist.” Jenkins documents Rehnquist’s period of prescription drug addiction after back surgery. He reports Rehnquist’s role in defending the Nixon administration’s arrest of 12,000 Vietnam War protestors in May 1971, then sat on an appeal in the same case as a Justices of the Court. Jenkins paints Rehnquist as the most conservative, ideological racist and end-driven justice in decades. Jenkins did not explain how someone who tended toward extreme and frequently dissented managed to lead the institution so effectively. Some scholars have described Rehnquist’s jurisprudence as one favoring majoritarian rule, federalism, and law and order. Jenkins does say Rehnquist was known for encouraging collegiality among the justices with very different views. The author noted that those who disliked Rehnquist’s opinions nonetheless, gave him high marks for his administration of the court, noting that he was fair, even-handed and efficient in running conferences, assigning opinions and managing oral arguments.Read more ›
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Schmerguls VINE VOICE on August 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This 2012 biography shows Rehnquist as the far right ideologue he was all his life. The author had access to the Nixon tapes and Nixon said he hoped Rehnquist was a "reactionary bastard"--and of course Nixon was not disappointed in that regard.. The book cites lots of cases (and wisely gives the legal citation for every case--thus if one wants to know what the case says one can easily read it in these days when all cases are on the Internet). The author is not I think, a lawyer, but he is very knowledgeable about the work of the Supreme Court. He shows that Rehnquist was not much interested in what the law was but in what he believed the law should be--and decided the cases on that basis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Wes Rann Swinfen on June 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a Canadian legal academic, I was surprised to learn much in this book - about how Nixon sought to appoint segregationist judges to the court, about Rehnquist's pro-segregation beliefs, about the hard ideological drive brought to adjudication in a forum that is supposed to be about faithful adherence to the law. One hears about 'conservative' and 'liberal' US judges, but the revelations in this book are off the scale entirely from anything I previously understood that to mean.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Abbie M. Storm on December 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
People may forget how much of a partisan departure Rehnquist was as Chief, but any small amount of looking will show that this author, though blunt & obviously not in agreement with his subject's politics, has done a good job of being fair to his subject & at making his historical case. This book should be included in any contemporary list of Supreme Court bio's & should be consumed by anyone interested in contemporary American political history.
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