We'd like to believe that our highest court is an ivory tower, its members dispensing justice outside the realm of politics and power. Max Lerner, a venerable journalist and Court watcher who died in 1992, knew better. This collection of essays spans his career: his youthful opposition to the Court that opposed FDR's New Deal; his belief in the 1950s that, though guilty, the Rosenbergs should not have been executed; his opposition to the ""plebiscitary trend"" that scotched the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. The constant throughout is Lerner's commitment to a balance between judicial restraint and judicial activism, and to independent thinking. Facing his second Supreme Court nomination, Clinton might do well to bear in mind Lerner's definition of the ""passionately judicial temperament"": ""a flexible mind, a compassion for the walking wounded, a refusal to be cowed by power, a capacity to live with the contradictions of life and to separate the permanent from the transient.