When the first Supreme Court convened in 1790, it was so ill-esteemed that its justices frequently resigned in favor of other pursuits. John Rutledge stepped down as Associate Justice to become a state judge in South Carolina; John Jay resigned as Chief Justice to run for Governor of New York; and Alexander Hamilton declined to replace Jay, pursuing a private law practice instead. As Bernard Schwartz shows in this landmark history, the Supreme Court has indeed travelled a long and interesting journey to its current preeminent place in American life.
In A History of the Supreme Court, Schwartz provides the finest, most comprehensive one-volume narrative ever published of our highest court. With impeccable scholarship and a clear, engaging style, he tells the story of the justices and their jurisprudence--and the influence the Court has had on American politics and society. With a keen ability to explain complex legal issues for the nonspecialist, he takes us through both the great and the undistinguished Courts of our nation's history. He provides insight into our foremost justices, such as John Marshall (who established judicial review in Marbury v. Madison, an outstanding display of political calculation as well as fine jurisprudence), Roger Taney (whose legacy has been overshadowed by Dred Scott v. Sanford), Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo, and others. He draws on evidence such as personal letters and interviews to show how the court has worked, weaving narrative details into deft discussions of the developments in constitutional law. Schwartz also examines the operations of the court: until 1935, it met in a small room under the Senate--so cramped that the judges had to put on their robes in full view of the spectators. But when the new building was finally opened, one justice called it "almost bombastically pretentious," and another asked, "What are we supposed to do, ride in on nine elephants?" He includes fascinating asides, on the debate in the first Court, for instance, over the use of English-style wigs and gowns (the decision: gowns, no wigs); and on the day Oliver Wendell Holmes announced his resignation--the same day that Earl Warren, as a California District Attorney, argued his first case before the Court. The author brings the story right up to the present day, offering balanced analyses of the pivotal Warren Court and the Rehnquist Court through 1992 (including, of course, the arrival of Clarence Thomas).
In addition, he includes four special chapters on watershed cases: Dred Scott v. Sanford, Lochner v. New York, Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade. Schwartz not only analyzes the impact of each of these epoch-making cases, he takes us behind the scenes, drawing on all available evidence to show how the justices debated the cases and how they settled on their opinions.
Bernard Schwartz is one of the most highly regarded scholars of the Supreme Court, author of dozens of books on the law, and winner of the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award. In this remarkable account, he provides the definitive one-volume account of our nation's highest court.
"Schwartz's book is not just for legal scholars; here he differentiates between the various Courts by chief justices, fleshing out the personalities, the scholastic backgrounds, and the philosophies of the jurists and giving law students and history buffs alike the lowdown on those who have shaped U.S. laws into the present....All the important cases, from Brown v. Board of Education to Roe vs. Wade, are explained in simple English. With its
plain talk about complicated legal issues and its handy appendix, this book is a gem."--Booklist
"Excellent text!"--Charles C. Perkins, Fisher College
"This is a first-class history of the Supreme Court by an author who writes well, and it should provide a solid background for students who wish to study the Court rather than just read excerpts from opinions."--Dr. Robert W. Langran, Villanova University
"An excellent account of our still least-visible yet no longer least-dangerous branch of the national government. In what is the best one-volume history of the U.S. Supreme Court, Schwartz guides the reader on an impressive, informative journey through the court's work over its two centuries of existence....Schwartz's latest scholarly contribution to the literature of the Supreme Court is required reading, and not just for lawyers or law professors. Highly
recommended."--Library Journal (starred review)
"A well-written account [that] takes us from the beginnings of the American judical system down to the present."--The New York Times Book Review
"A thorough, balanced, and readable chronological overview of the highest court in the land. He mixes biographical sketches of justices like John Marshall with insightful analyses of major decisions, offering also a close look at four watershed cases, e.g., those regarding desegregation and abortion. Schwartz's account of the modern court, especially that headed by Warren, is lively and savvy, with a moderate-liberal slant."--Publishers Weekly
"This compact yet comprehensive volume fills a special niche in writings about the Supreme Court and Constitutional law. Its detailed, yet manageable, information and analysis illuminate the critical role that the Court has played throughout U.S. history as the final arbiter of constitutional meaning and, hence, the ultimate guarantor of civil liberties and civil rights."--Nadine Strosser, Professor of Law, New York Law School, and President,
American Civil Liberties Union
"Lots of writers have exhaustively mined the subject of judicial activism since Holmes's' appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Few Scholars have understood the nineteenth-century tradition from which twentieth-century activism emerged. Professor Schwartz has given us in twelve pages the most insightful, historically sound, intelligible analysis of the Dred Scott case ever written. Unlike mathematicians, there are no brilliant young writers; brilliant writers
are old and experienced writers, and this is the crowning achievement of Professor Schwartz's long and distinguished career."--Richard Neely, Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals,
author of How Courts Govern America
"Throughout our history, Justices of the Supreme Court have frequently affected our lives and fortunes to a greater extent than presidents and congresspersons. Bernard Schwartz has performed the monumental task of familiarizing us, in a readable manner, with the careers and works of those who served on the highest court in the land. The Schwartz Supreme Court history belongs in the library of all who seek to better understand our democratic way of
life."--Stanley Mosk, Justice of the Supreme Court of California
"[An] elegantly written one-volume history....A lively narrative that springs to life through the introduction of key cases and colorful figures....Highly readable....It is, by far, the best one-volume history we have of the Court."--Kermit Hall, The Ohio State University
"In a well-written account takes us from the beginnings of the American judicial system...to the present."--New York Times Book Review
"Bernard Schwartz says he set out to write a good one-volume history of the Supreme Court, and he has done a masterful job of achieving that goal. Schwartz has managed to give life to the Court by spinning a story that encompasses a variety of integrated themes: the growth of Supreme Court power, the ebbs and flows of the Court's performance, the character and philosophy of individual justices, and developments in legal doctrine."--Paul Kens, Southwest
Texas State University