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A Justice for All: William J. Brennan, Jr., and the Decisions That Transformed America First Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0671767877
ISBN-10: 0671767879
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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

In this brisk, agreeable account, Washingtonian Magazine national editor Eisler (Shark Tank, 1990) pays tribute to the great liberal jurist, recapitulating the judicial achievements of Brennan's long and influential Supreme Court career. A progressive who interpreted the Bill of Rights expansively in favor of individual rights, Brennan was the ``lapel-pulling playmaker'' whose gregarious personality and taste for compromise made possible some of the Warren and Burger Courts' most famous activist decisions. But before his 1952 appointment to the New Jersey Supreme Court, there was little to suggest his liberal proclivities: A solid but not outstanding product of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law, Brennan had been the first Catholic partner at one of New Jersey's staid corporate law firms and had devoted his professional energies to promoting the interests of his corporate clients. Eisler sees Brennan's 1953 dissenting opinion in New Jersey v. Tune, in which he argued that a criminal defendant should have the right to see his written confession, as an important harbinger of his future philosophy. Nonetheless, Brennan's liberalism was still so obscure that when President Eisenhower appointed him to the US Supreme Court in 1956, the Chief Executive assumed that Brennan wouldn't ``entertain technical arguments about constitutionality.'' Eisler speculates that Brennan's liberalism was rooted in his Newark boyhood as the son of a poor Irish laborer who became a labor leader and political reformer. The author quickly reviews several of Brennan's great cases, such as Baker v. Carr (which established the ``one person- one vote'' rule for election district-drawing), and various privacy and obscenity cases (Brennan's most influential decision, New York Times v. Sullivan, which revolutionized the law of defamation, receives only a brief sketch). The author also illuminates Brennan's close relationships with his family and other justices. Although Eisler's analyses of specific cases can be disappointingly superficial, he paints a warm, vivid portrait of Brennan the man and admirably sums up the justice's humane and progressive jurisprudence. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First edition (December 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671767879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671767877
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,514,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
AJFA is a pretty average biography on on of the more important Supreme Court Justices of the 20th century. The first half is a traditional biography; the second half attempts to profile some of the major decisions of the era with which Brennen was involved. The book isn't great but it's not bad either. For $0.11+S&H, I can't complain.

Not bad but not recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Justice Brennan was nominated by President Eisenhower with an assumption that he would be a conservative and vote against Chief Justice Earl Warren. Brennan became one of a long line of justices to shock the president that appointed them by being farther to the left. That list includes Blackmun, Souter, Stevens, and Warren as well. Brennan's appointment happened very quickly with a minimum of checking on his background. He was a New Jersey Supreme Court judge who had come from a distinguished career in private practice, a stint in military intelligence during World War II, and from a civic minded family with a former city commissioner father. If you have read that last sentence, you probably know more about Brennan's background then Eisenhower did.

The book covers Brennan's early history but really takes off when he arrives on the court. The author does a good job linking Brennan's views to earlier events in his life and earlier decisions on the New Jersey court, demonstrating that he did not really change that much on core issues. Although firmly encamped in the court's liberal wing, Brennan preferred to operate quietly and make compromises to shape majority opinions rather than lonely dissents. He worked closely with Chief Justice Warren and was never fully comfortable with the two other chiefs he served with. Except on the death penalty and later years when other strong liberals were mostly absent from the court, Brennan was more of a back room operator than the public face of the liberal wing.

Brennan's influence can be felt in issues still with us today. Some are mostly settled now and uncontroversial, for example most of the criminal procedure protections Brennan supported.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I became interested in Justice Brennan after reading the brilliant book The Brethren by Bob Woodward. Brennan came across as the most interesting Justice in that book (although they all came off as people one would like to read about).

Eisler's book is good, gives a readable account of Brennan's life and accomplishments in and out of the court. I would like to have seen some more opinions on Brennan from other sources after his retirement but apart from that, a good account of a groundbreaking Justice.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this book was well written and researched.have read much about justice brennan and this books provides some new information not found elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent reading for those who are followers of the Warren-Brennan Court. It is a book worth of reading and reviewing now and then.
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