by David G. Savage ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 15, 1992
Los Angeles Times reporter Savage engrossingly chronicles a sea change in the nation's high court--its transformation, under Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, from guardian of an expansively interpreted Bill of Rights into a highly restrained and, toward government authority, profoundly deferential court. Savage tells a story much like an updated version of The Brethren, but without the gossipy flavor. The Burger Court depicted by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong was dominated by liberal activist William Brennan and, like the Warren Court before it, read the Bill of Rights broadly and creatively to invalidate a wide range of statutes in the name of equity of civil liberties and human rights. By contrast, the Court that Savage describes has come increasingly under the control of Rehnquist and his narrow and literalist reading of the Constitution. Savage gives a term-by-term account, beginning with Rehnquist's elevation to the Chief Justiceship in 1986 and ending with the departure of the last Warren Court liberal, Thurgood Marshall, and the turbulent confirmation of his successor, Clarence Thomas. Along the way, the author offers anecdotal portraits of each justice, emphasizing the conservatives of the Reagan/Bush years who have transformed the Court--O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Souter. Savage focuses on cases raising highly visible issues--abortion, the death penalty, employment discrimination, for example--to demonstrate the Court's evolving approach to Constitutional adjudication, but does not neglect more arcane cases. The consistent philosophical threads in the Rehnquist Court's approach, he explains, are its deference to legislative majorities and governmental authority, and its disinclination to uphold challenges to such authority. Savage concludes that ""to a remarkable degree, the new Court mirrors the affable but solidly conservative man who leads it."" A thoughtful, well-researched look at the current pronounced conservatism of a moat enigmatic and influential institution.
Pub Date: May 15, 1992
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1992
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