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.''