Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Journey Hardcover – April 14, 2005
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun's lifelong connection with Chief Justice Warren Burger—beginning in kindergarten in St. Paul, Minn., and culminating in 16 years together on the Supreme Court—supplies Greenhouse with one of her main organizing themes in this illuminating study of Blackmun's life and intellectual history. Once the closest of friends, Blackmun (1908–1999) and Burger diverged personally and ideologically, beginning in 1973, when Burger assigned Blackmun to write the Court's opinion in Roe v. Wade. Greenhouse, the New York Times's veteran Supreme Court watcher, draws primarily on Blackmun's massive personal archive to show how his authorship of the majority opinion in Roe (7–2) propelled him down several unexpected paths. Blackmun embraced equal protection for women and came to reject capital punishment. A Nixon appointee, Blackmun became the Supreme Court's most liberal justice after the retirement of William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall. The personality that emerges in Greenhouse's portrayal is that of a self-effacing and scholarly judge, devoid of partisanship, willing to follow his ideas wherever they led him. Making no pretense at being definitive or comprehensive, Greenhouse sets a high standard in offering an intimate look both at the man and at the development of his judicial thought. B&w photos. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Greenhouse, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with the New York Times, was the first print reporter to have access to the personal and official papers of Justice Blackmun, who died in 1999, five years after retiring from the Supreme Court. Those papers are Greenhouse's primary source as she looks back on the 24 years of Blackmun's service on the court. He wrote the majority opinion in the Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, but his papers reflect his personal struggle with the decision, as well as others on issues of the death penalty and sex discrimination. The immense collection includes correspondence with other jurists, including Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. Greenhouse draws on personal papers to show Blackmun's personal journey, from entries in a childhood diary to the musings of a young lawyer hungering for partnership. This is an absorbing look at the personal and official concerns of a man who helped to shape American law and society. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
All those famous quotes I remember from law school--from "Poor Joshua!" to "from this day forward I shall no longer tinker with the machinery of death" to "There is 'another world' out there, the existence of which the Court, I suspect, either chooses to ignore or fears to recognize"--were put into context. You can see and feel the evolution of Justice Blackmun's jurisprudence and his movement away from the faith held so close by most other justices (liberal and conservative): that judging is a sterile job through which an academic interpretation grounded in strict principles will lead to a "just" system regardless of whether human experience demonstrates otherwise. As a practicing lawyer who sees the impact of each judicial decision in human terms play out on the lives of her clients daily, I can appreciate Justice Blackmun's compassion. That this compassion shines through is a testament to Linda Greenhouse as a writer.
TL;DR An accessible and moving biography that captures Justice Blackmun's compassion, highly recommended.
A major thread in the book involves Blackmun's relationship and interactions with other Justices, with particular emphasis on his relationship with Chief Justice Warren Burger. Burger was a lifelong friend, but their tenure on the court put an irreparable strain on that friendship. Justice Blackmun is most famous for having penned the majority opinion in the landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade. The book does a wonderful job in showing how Blackmun's jurisprudence evolved during his 24 years on the Supreme Court: he began as a fairly conservative-to-moderate justice but was the court's most liberal judge when he retired in 1994.
This is a great read. My only complaint is that there is some organizational confusion to the book: while in general it is presented chronologically, towards the end when discussing Blackmun's role with women's rights, it jumps back in time and is a little confusing. This is a minor problem though and certainly didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the book.
Definitely worth reading if you have an interest in the Supreme Court, American History or biographies in general.