An illuminating look at the human side of the highest court.




Authoritative analysis of how the justices’ “quirks of personality and temperament” have shaped American law and made the Court one of our strongest institutions.

Rosen (Law/George Washington Univ.; The Naked Crowd, 2004, etc.) traces the Court’s evolution through the stories of four pairs of personalities and their clashes over important issues. The most successful justices, he argues, have been “institutionalists”: effective leaders and consensus-builders who are modest, likable, able to find common ground and more concerned about the legitimacy of the Court than their own interests and agendas. The least successful justices have been insecure, heavy-handed “loners” more interested in personal glory than in quietly getting things done. Specialists will appreciate Rosen’s examinations of these conflicting judicial temperaments at play during different periods in history; general readers without a solid grounding in constitutional issues may feel lost. The basic differences animating these clashing duos are made clear. Crafty and appealing Chief Justice John Marshall managed time after time to outfox his introverted, thin-skinned political opponent, Thomas Jefferson. Gregarious Justice John Marshall Harlan won out on the issue of majority rule over darker, more ideological Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. The persuasive Hugo Black, deeply devoted to the institution of the Court, proved far more influential on key issues than undisciplined, self-destructive William O. Douglas. Of modern conservative justices, Rosen finds that the pragmatic William H. Rehnquist was much more respected within the Court than Antonin Scalia, a rigid purist. A concluding chapter based on an interview with Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. suggests that he may have the temperament of his successful predecessors.

An illuminating look at the human side of the highest court.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2007

ISBN: 0-8050-8182-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2006

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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