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Nine Scorpions in a Bottle: The Great Judges and Cases of the Supreme Court Hardcover – July 15, 1994
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To paraphrase the great humorist Finley Peter Dunne, the Constitution follows the flag and the Supreme Court follows the election returns. Journalist and scholar Max Lerner, on the other hand, followed the Supreme Court for more than 60 years. Lerner analyzes the great minds and judicial decisions that have, over the course of his entire career, done so much to shape America's national character. Portraits of John Marshall, Louis Brandeis, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Earl Warren, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and William O. Douglas belie Dunne's comic remark. These fiercely independent thinkers followed no election returns but used their intellect and vision to preserve the American Constitution. Lerner's essays on the Court's moments of both majesty and shame are dedicated "to the newest generation of constitutional students." Among the subjects are "The Supreme Court and American Capitalism," "Watergate as Constitutional Crisis," and "The Bork Wars as Confirmation Crisis." Nonpartisan and clear-eyed, Lerner's discussions of the justices and their most important cases will enrich anyone's understanding of American culture and law. --Nancy Starr --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Author and columnist, Lerner (1902-1992) gained a reputation as a thoughtful commentator on the Supreme Court in the 1930s and continued such work to his death. This notable volume collects a range of his essays, augmented by his reflective introductions. In the 1930s, Lerner criticized the conservative court majority for invalidating liberal state and New Deal legislation; he also defended FDR's controversial attempt to "pack," or reorganize, the court. In extensive essays he analyzes the greatness of judges John Marshall, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Hugo Black and Robert Jackson. He concludes with observations on the four most recent "Courts"--from Chief Justice Vinson's to Rehnquist's. Though Lerner sympathized with the early efforts of the Warren Court, he became critical of its activist decisions in affirmative action and criminal cases. Lerner describes his court-watching style as "contextual, organismic, integrative, even mythic." His insights have not grown stale. Cummings teaches at Pace University School of Law.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Feldman wrote during the Great Depression up through the Reagan presidency. In the 1930s, he wrote a number of pieces for the Yale Law Journal, and later—until his death 1992—he wrote columns for the New York Post. This book is comprised of the pieces concerning the Supreme Court. Some, but not all, of the pieces written in the 1930s are dated. These comprise Part I. The balance of the book is timeless. Lerner’s bios and the analysis of their opinions, of John Marshall, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Felix Frankfurter, Hugo Black, Louis Brandeis, Robert Jackson and William Douglas make this book particularly worthwhile. These comprise Part II. The pieces in Part III, under the heading, “The Interaction of Courts and Culture” are noteworthy as well. Theses pieces are: “The Vinson Regime, Caught in Midpassage,” “The Career of the Warren Court,” “Watergate as Constitutional Crisis,” “The Balancing of the Burger Court,” “The Rehnquist Court Enters History” and “Bork Wars as Confirmation Crisis.” The epilogue is entitled, “Oliver Wendell Holmes Revisited.” Holmes is of particular interest to Lerner because of his sheer brilliance and his evolving thoughts concerning free speech.
Lerner began his career as an FDR liberal and ended up as a Reagan conservative. Lerner covers the gamut of important Court decisions, from Marshall and Taney, to the conservative judicial activism of the early 20th century, to the judicial restraint of the Brandeis’ years, to the liberal judicial activism of the Warren Court, to the judicial activism of the Burger Court (notably Roe v. Wade), to the conservative judicial restraint of the Rehnquist years.
It helps being familiar with at least a few of the landmarks cases Lerner discusses. The one book I would recommend prior to reading this book is, “Lochner v. New York: Economic Regulation on Trial” by Paul Kens. This 1905 Court decision was among the most important decisions of the first half of the 20th century and continues to influence decisions to this day. Bottom line: Lerner's unique perspective informs and entertains.
I have to admit that it has changed my life; also lowered for good my perception of the quality of my own work. He is a brilliant writer and commentator. After reading it you will probably pick up a a newspaper and feel profoundly disappointed that such quality of journalism is no more.