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Dissent and the Supreme Court: Its Role in the Court's History and the Nation's Constitutional Dialogue Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 13, 2015

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Acclaim for Mel Urofksy’s
DISSENT AND THE SUPREME COURT
 
“Brilliant . . . Urofsky’s expertise as a historian and student of the Supreme Court brings depth and richness to his treatment of this fascinating subject . . . A good read for those who find the workings of the Court of special interest.”
–Ronald Goldfarb, Washington Lawyer
 
“One of the nation’s great legal historians . . . masterfully recounts the history of dissent on the court, from its early days, when dissents were rare and strongly discouraged, to the modern era, when they often outnumbered majority opinions.
–David Cole, The Washington Post
 
“Balanced, and highly illuminating . . . For anyone interested in the Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the American democracy, lawyer and layperson alike . . . An intriguing account . . . A significant contribution to our understanding of the Supreme Court and the Constitution.”                                           
–Stephen Rohde, The Los Angeles Review of Books
 
“Incisive . . . Dissent and the Supreme Court traces the dissent’s noble history and shows how many of the most important protections of American society – free speech, racial equality, individual liberty – began their lives as dissents pushing back against a court that was not yet ready to hear them.”             
–Joshua J. Friedman, Columbia Magazine
 
“Ambitious . . . Urofsky’s extraordinarily careful analysis and sense of historical depth make ‘Dissent and the Supreme Court’ an important book, one that explores some of the most significant dissents in the history of that institution . . .riveting . . . Indeed, his book can serve as a guide, a way of determining what constitutes a really fine and compelling dissent.”
–Dahlia Lithwick, New York Times Book Review
 
“A welcome perspective on a vibrant, ongoing constitutional dialogue.”
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

MELVIN I. UROFSKY is a professor emeritus of history at Virginia Commonwealth University and was the chair of its history department. He is the editor (with David W. Levy) of the five-volume collection of Louis Brandeis’s letters, as well as the author of American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust and Louis D. Brandeis. He lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (October 13, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030737940X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307379405
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lucky Clucker TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 2, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I think a person's evaluation of this book will depend a great deal on what expectations you have going into it. I am a lawyer and have taught US history on the college level, so I have a fair understanding of The Supremes (as my Con Law prof used to call them) and their place in American history. As such, I didn't expect any great revelations from Mr. Urofsky, and I wasn't surprised or disappointed by his book. That said, I did find the book a very elegantly written general overview of some of the most important cases in Supreme Court history.

To me it is obvious dissent has been a major factor when it comes to developing American domestic policy -- just as it is in any long-term political relationship. The Founding Fathers considered dissent such a critical part of American politics that they drafted the Constitution in a way that wouldn't hedge or direct dissent (hence the lack of any reference or provision for political parties in the document). I think the history of the Court, and how it has developed over time and created its place in the federal government is covered very well in this book.

Mr. Urofsky is eloquent on most of the subject matter and excessively interesting on anything that touches on Brandeis, which apparently is his real subject of expertise (or one of them ?)

Anyhow, this was a nice refresher for me and got me thinking about cases I haven't given much thought to since law school. If you want a very readable account of the Court's history and how dissent has shaped the Court, this is a pleasurable read.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am neither a scholar nor attorney but found Dissent and the Supreme Court an intriguing - albeit intense - look at the history of the court.
Author and law professor Melvin Urofsky takes a unique look at the dissents of landmark cases that shaped society over the past 226 years. Sometimes those dissents prove to be the catalyst for change, as in Plessey v. Ferguson, and in others they provide a window into another chapter in our nation's history.
Urofsky lets the words of the justices speak for themselves while providing a background into the era in which these cases came to be heard. He does a good job of introducing the layman reader to the workings of the court and impressively checks whatever his political leanings may be at the door.
It is pretty well known that on today's court, Justices Scalia and Ginsburg, despite their political differences, are close friends and confidants and have great respect for each other. I liked that Urofsky lets the reader see how personal relationships like this have shaped the court and sometimes influenced - for the better - the drafting of both majority and minority opinions.
This will be an easier read for someone in the legal field than it was for a layperson like myself. It can be a bit academic at times but Urofsky is thorough and comprehensive in his coverage of the court.
This is not a fast read - there is a lot of information to digest - but it is an enlightening history lesson and well worth the investment of time.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Having practiced constitutional law for more than 25-years, I probably approached this book a little differently than the average reader. But, in reviewing it, I wanted to put aside my expectations and consider it as something for the well-informed layperson. While the central thesis of the book is provocative and interesting, and the author does a great job of setting it up and explaining the singular role dissenting opinions play in Supreme Court jurisprudence, he fails to do so in way that captures the imagination, and, in injecting his personal political views into the book, distorts what could have been (and what I expected to be) philosophical more neutral historical detective story about the the social and political climate out of which dissenting views emanated -- and how those opinions, for example, might be understood in that context. Nor does the author effectively play devil's advocate to bring out nuances lost in the popular views of those cases. In the end, it feels mostly like a polemic, and not the page turner it ought to have been.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Dissent and the Supreme Court offers readers an indepth take at the look at the power of the dissent in the Supreme Court over the course of United States history. Many of the cases covered in the book aren't ones that are uncommon to most people who were educated in the United States and potentially lived in the Southern United States. In any case, though we know the outcomes of many of the cases of the past, only those well versed in the language of United States law and justice probably knew the deep meaning behind some of the rulings. I found it highly invigorating and greatly educational of seeing how the power of the dissent played apart in helping to shape the future decisions of some of the landmark cases in expanding property rights, social rights, and even rights encompassing the right to privacy.

Favorite parts of the book involved those dealing with the personalities of the justices both those who were on the right side of history and those who were on the wrong side of history. Many of the justices made good points for their viewpoints that it can be seen how hard it would have been, living at the time, to not have close verdicts. Even those who would be on the wrong side (wrong side defined as being in the side who would be eventually overturned, or even ones who had supported cases like Plessy v Ferguson, or in the most recent times, roe v wade, and a few homosexuality opinions). The book highlighted that most of this was all due to pushing forward an agenda of getting dialogue flowing between the judicial, legislative system, and then the public. What seemed great was that they end up going in the direction of what the public eventually favors publicly.
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