AGAINST THE LAW: The Nixon Court and Criminal Justice by Leonard W. Levy
Kirkus Star

AGAINST THE LAW: The Nixon Court and Criminal Justice

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Levy, a Pulitzer prize winner and justly respected Constitutional historian, has little sympathy with the Nixon appointees' assault on true Constitutional conservatism -- but vast and patient insight into it. An adherent not of pure liberal activism but of the ""judicial philosophy of self-restraint"" exemplified in recent times by Frankfurter and Harlan, the author documents how ""the Court's fidelity to the Bill of Rights has become dangerously attenuated."" The book begins by reminding those ""don't coddle the criminal"" Warren Court critics that the Supreme Court is ""not a supreme jury"" deciding guilt or innocence, and adds that untrammeled police activity failed to reduce the crime rate in the '20's. The histories and appointments of the Nixon Four are scrutinized (pricking the pretensions of the bumptious Berger to being a ""strict constructionist""), as well as those of the other five justices. White, now the swing man, according to Levy, is unfortunately an unprincipled and careless fellow. The book surveys the Nixon Court's record on Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendment questions of criminal justice procedure and legislation. Levy is bluntly appalled by the 1970 and 1972 decisions shrinking the size and unanimity requirements for criminal-case juries. And in the same years, he writes, the Court ""misshaped the Constitutional law on death by opinions that were contradictory, uncraftsmanlike, and inconclusive."" Levy finds the most abrupt Nixon Court departure in the Fifth Amendment realm of self-incrimination: ""Harris did not overrule Miranda. Harris throttled Miranda, circumvented it. . .and invited law-enforcement agencies to do the same; more, it provided them with advantages for doing the same."" Both scrupulous and passionate, detailed and accessible, this study does a great deal to custodire the custodes.

Pub Date: Dec. 4th, 1974
Publisher: Harper & Row