A weak, erratically hyped pop-chronicle of the Warren Court--condensed from Schwartz's Super Chief (p. 573), with...



A weak, erratically hyped pop-chronicle of the Warren Court--condensed from Schwartz's Super Chief (p. 573), with applied-motifs and news-clip embellishments by Lesher. The Foreword, an accurate foretaste of what's to come, lists all sorts of Court-related conflicts, inconsistencies, and peculiarities: ""whatever direction the Warren Court might take, predictability and legal orthodoxy would not be among its principal characteristics."" The opening chapter, titled ""A Jap's a Jap,"" emphasizes Warren's involvement in WW II Japanese internment--followed by his relative liberalism as California's governor: ""Not until he came to the Court, however, did Warren have both the opportunity and the will to restore in significant measure the 'American concept of freedom and the rights of citizens' which, once in his earlier career, he had ignored."" To make this a motif is exploitative, baseless, and misleading--the latter because Warren's greater liberalism as a Justice did have a specific inception: Brown. The chapter linking the Brown case and the death of Warren's predecessor as Chief Justice, Fred Vinson, is tastelessly titled ""Finding God"" (after non-believer Frankfurter's famous quip, on hearing the news, that ""there is a God""); the case is depicted as arising from a spontaneous, ""personal concern"" by St. Louisan Oliver Brown--not as part of a long-gestated NAACP campaign to challenge school segregation. (The more-or-less accurate part is the 54 Court stalemate--which Vinson, unlike Warren, could never have swung to a unanimous decision.) Subsequent, floridly-titled topical chapters (""What Heaven Must Be Like,"" ""Clerk Power,"" ""Playing Piano in a Whorehouse,"" etc.) serve up lots of Schwartz' s dirt about individual justices and their in-fighting--with far less legal context or chronological relevance. The above-named chapters consist almost entirely of such dirt, plus Court lore and curiosa. Then comes Brown--in a chapter called ""Ducks, Pheasant, and Justice for All."" When he isn't being clever, Lesher (who wrote the text) gets some things passably right--but overall this is a travesty of Schwartz's responsibly detailed (if dullish and unoriginal) book: unworthy of YA recommendation and in no way comparable to G. Edward White's Warren biography as a clear, intelligent, coherent account of his Court years.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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