FLAGRANT CONDUCT by Dale Carpenter


The Story of Lawrence v. Texas
Email this review


A character-rich account of the 2003 landmark Lawrence v. Texas case in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1986 decision in the Bowers v. Hardwick sodomy case and effectively made same-sex sexual activity legal throughout the country.

Carpenter (Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Law/University of Minnesota Law School) demonstrates both the transformation in public thinking about homosexuality and the evolution of jurisprudence on sexuality. He opens with the night in 1998 when police in Harris County, Texas, entered the home of John Lawrence and arrested him and Tyron Garner on charges of sodomy; he follows the case through the various maneuverings necessary to take it to the Supreme Court. Found guilty by a justice of the peace, the men subsequently appeared before the Texas Criminal Court, which denied a request to dismiss the charges on Fourteenth Amendment equal protection grounds and on right to privacy grounds. A Texas Court of Appeals also rejected this argument, and after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to review the case, it headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lambda Legal, a national organization supporting gay and lesbian rights, led the challenge, supported by Jenner & Block, a legal firm with considerable Supreme Court experience. Carpenter's account is filled with relevant quotes by and colorful descriptions of the parties involved:  defendants, police, lawyers and civil rights activists, district attorneys and Texas judges, and most of all Supreme Court Justices. The author, who was present when the case was argued before the Supreme Court, is forthright in giving his personal impressions that day of the demeanor of Justices, lawyers, and concerned onlookers. He follows this with imagined scenes of how the Justices might have discussed the issues afterward, and then returns to the scene in the courtroom, three months later, when the decision was announced. Finally, he depicts reactions to the decision among gay-rights supporters and those like Justice Scalia who were outraged by it.

A legal commentator's informative, highly readable account of a case that has been likened in significance to Brown v. Board of Education and Gideon v. Wainwright.

Pub Date: March 12th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-393-06208-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2012


NonfictionCIVIL WARS by David Moats
by David Moats
NonfictionCOURTING JUSTICE by Joyce Murdoch
by Joyce Murdoch
NonfictionUNFRIENDLY FIRE by Nathaniel Frank
by Nathaniel Frank