A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF THE SUPREME COURT by Rodney A.--Ed. Smolla

A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF THE SUPREME COURT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Eight legal correspondents and two law professors submit workmanlike essays on some major decisions of the 1992-93 Supreme Court. Editor Smolla (Marshall-Wythe School of Law at William and Mary College; Free Speech in an Open Society, 1992) had a fine idea: Assign top Supreme Court cases to top Supreme Court reporters and gather their reflections to provide a sense of constitutional ""process"" for a single year. But the result is a drab, myopic collection, too technical and bloodless for lay Court-watchers, yet too superficial and pedantic for lawyers. The essays, notably uniform in style and perspective, fail to do justice to some inherently fascinating subjects: hate-speech laws, habeas review of death-penalty cases, age discrimination, warrantless drug searches. Occasionally the reporters include a revealing bit of gossip (such as Anthony Kennedy's distaste for Antonin Scalia's ""slashing"" internal memoranda, known as ""Ninograms""), but the more common practice here is to insert, sometimes irrelevantly, a boilerplate mini-bio of a justice casting a critical vote. Two essays stand out: Writing on the Zobrest case (in which the Court found no First Amendment problem in providing a state-appointed interpreter for a deaf student attending a religious school), Knight-Ridder reporter Aaron Epstein briskly explores the facts and speculates knowledgeably about future church/state issues facing the Court. And Stephen Wermeil, former Supreme Court correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, contributes a humane, lucid account of a Georgia teen suing her school district for damages when the school's football coach sexually harassed her. Smolla's editorial comments, however, are redundant, patronizing, and oddly worshipful of Scalia (""a magnificent conservative""). A yawner from the Fourth Estate.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 082231665X
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Duke Univ.