THE COURAGE OF THEIR CONVICTIONS: Sixteen Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court by Peter Irons

THE COURAGE OF THEIR CONVICTIONS: Sixteen Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court

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The US Supreme Court is unique in world jurisprudence: no other court has such broad power to invalidate statutes and governmental roles at all levels. But someone has to petition to Court to hear a case before it can issue an opinion. Here, Irons (Pol. Sci/U. San Diego) has written a stirring book about individuals whose cases resulted in landmark Supreme Court decisions. Irons writes an introduction to each of the 16 cases detailed, giving the legal and historical background. Each introduction is then followed by a section written by the litigant. In a few cases, the plaintiff was approached as an appropriate party to bring a test case challenging a law; in other cases, the litigant was subject to the force of law for exercising his or her conscience. The account of Lillian Gobitis--who, as a seventh-grade student in 1935, refused to join a flag-salute ceremony required by her school--is the most compelling. As a Jehovah's Witness, Gobitis was persecuted by the establishment and other children. The account of her ordeal, her attendance at makeshift nonpublic schools, and the beatings and killings that other Witnesses endured are a reminder that minority rights are often won at a high price. The case of Gordon Hirabayshi--who challenged the relocation of Japanese-Americans during WW II--shows us that freedom was not a universal rule throughout this nation's history. And then there's the case of Mary Beth Tinker, who received telephone deaththreats for wearing a black armband in high school to protest the Vietnam War in violation of her school-board's rule. An accessible piece of legal writing, and a strong reminder that real freedom is the right to swim against the popular tide.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1988
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan