From Publishers Weekly
In his second book this year (after The Most Democratic Branch
), Rosen examines how temperament and personal style shape decision making at the U.S. Supreme Court. The author, a law professor and legal affairs editor at the New Republic,
profiles four pairs of contrasting personalities: President Thomas Jefferson and Chief Justice John Marshall; Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and John Marshall Harlan; Justices William O. Douglas and Hugo Black; and finally Justice Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Jefferson, Holmes, Douglas and Scalia are Rosen's exemplars of judicially counterproductive temperaments: they are ideologues, too invested in promoting the purity of their ideas to exert long-term influence on constitutional law. Far more persuasive for Rosen are Marshall, Harlan, Black and Rehnquist, distinguished by collegiality, willingness to compromise and subordinate their own agendas to the prestige of the Court. Most of the book consists of anecdotes about these eight judges, along with summaries of their most celebrated decisions and brief but perceptive explanations of their judicial philosophies. All this is entertaining, although it dilutes the book's stated focus on judicial temperament. Considering today's Court, Rosen believes Chief Justice Roberts will display a successful talent for consensus-building. As Rosen is well aware, a lot rides on the accuracy of this prediction. (Jan.)
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About the Author
Jeffrey Rosen is a professor of law at George Washington University and the legal affairs editor of The New Republic. He is the author of The Most Democratic Branch, The Naked Crowd, and The Unwanted Gaze. His articles have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker. He is a frequent contributor to National Public Radio and lives in Washington, D.C.