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The Supremes' Greatest Hits: The 34 Supreme Court Cases That Most Directly Affect Your Life Paperback – January 1, 2007
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The author may consider writing a updated edition and then place some of the missing cases in the new edition.
This book lacks depth. The author devotes, on average, 5 pages to each case. This is taken to mean that the book is not aimed at the professional reader but rather at the common reader (such as me), who is interested in enriching his understanding of the Supreme Court and its "greatest hits". All in all, this book is an easy and quick read to be enjoyed by anyone with a slight interest in such topics.
I've been talking to everyone I know about this little gem, because it is so darn readable, and so relevant. Yesterday my local paper ran a story about filtering software the local library may soon install. And this morning I finished the book after reading about the cases that are directly tied to this course of action. So I can speak more intelligently about this issue, and I can read the paper with a more informed perspective.
Many of the cases are introduced by discussing a logical framework that parallels the facts of the case. The case is then introduced, and the arguments and reasoning that drove the court are discussed. Wow, that makes it sound really boring. But on the contrary, its a fun read and each chapter is short and encapsulated. Highly recommended.
The author fleshed out the cases' implications. That made for fascinating reading. It makes you understand as a layperson why a specific case shaped the history of our modern society or will affect it for a long time to come.
The book is well organized. The 34 cases are grouped within 10 different chapters focusing on relevant judicial themes such as the separation of Church and State, discrimination, right of privacy, and free speech among others. In case you are much more interested in a specific issue it is easy to zero in on it.
I learned a few interesting related things along the way. For instance, among Supreme Court Justice the word "conservative" has a different meaning than within the two other branches of government. In this situation, conservative means traditional or literal. This means a justice applies the Constitution literally as written. Given how much our society has changed over the past two centuries since the document was written, it seems such a conservative position is increasingly challenging to maintain. And, I gather whether a justice is conservative is more a relative scale than a yes/no absolute answer.
The author also indicates that the politics of a justice before his or her nomination to the Supreme Court is apparently a poor indicator of this person's future political bent once on the Supreme Court. He mentions the case of Chief Justice Warren who was politically very conservative before joining the Court. But, he turned out to be a very liberal and activist chief justice.
You can tell that I strongly recommend this book. Usually, I always recommend other related books. In this case, I really can't because I am totally outside of my field of expertise. That tells you right there this is fit reading for a layperson. You certainly don't need to be a legal eagle to enjoy this short book.
The Supreme Court is in many respects the most powerful branch of government -- it can nullify the actions of the other two branches. But while there is always a great hue and cry when a new Supreme Court justice is nominated, most people never get beyond a very few hot button issues and don't understand what the fuss is all about. In fact, as this book makes wonderfully clear, the Court has a dramatic impact on all of our lives in a wide variety of ways, and the institution itself is as fascinating as what it has done and is likely to do in the future.
There are books that focus on the history of the Supreme Court and on landmark decisions of the Supreme Court, but they don't home in on how the Court directly affects the lives of everyday people in a way that is easily understood. This book fills that gap and is at the same time a great read.