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First Among Equals: The Supreme Court in American Lifeby Kenneth W. Starr
Synopses & Reviews
"Many things can be said about the post-Warren Supreme Court, not least that it has evolved into a more lawyerly tribunal and that it has become increasingly dedicated to stability and moderation. But one thing that may not be said about the Court today is that it has abandoned its central role in American life, which was established so firmly by the Court under Earl Warren. Bush v. Gore, a case that most Americans recognize, makes the point....Bush v. Gore illustrates the modern Court's most abiding characteristic. It is one identified time and again in the pages of this book. Ultimately in our system of government, the Supreme Court is first among equals." -from First Among Equals
Today's United States Supreme Court consists of nine intriguingly varied justices and one overwhelming contradiction: Compared to its revolutionary predecessor, the Rehnquist Court appears deceptively passive, yet it stands as dramatically ready to defy convention as the Warren Court of the 1950s and 60s. Now Kenneth W. Starr - who served as clerk for one chief justice, argued twenty-five cases as solicitor general before the Supreme Court, and is widely regarded as one of the nation's most distinguished practitioners of constitutional law-offers us an incisive and unprecedented look at the paradoxes, the power, and the people of the highest court in the land.
In First Among Equals Ken Starr traces the evolution of the Supreme Court from its beginnings, examines major Court decisions of the past three decades, and uncovers the sometimes surprising continuity between the precedent-shattering Warren Court and its successors under Burger and Rehnquist. He shows us, as no other author ever has, the very human justices who shape our law, from Sandra Day O'Connor, the Court's most pivotal ? and perhaps most powerful - player, to Clarence Thomas, its most original thinker. And he explores the present Court's evolution into a lawyerly tribunal dedicated to balance and consensus on the one hand, and zealous debate on hotly contested issues of social policy on the other.
? On race, the Court overturned affirmative action and held firm to an undeviating color-blind standard.
? On executive privilege, the Court rebuffed three presidents, both Republican and Democrat, who fought to increase their power at the expense of rival branches of government.
? On the 2000 presidential election, the Court prevented what it deemed a runaway Florida court from riding roughshod over state law?illustrating how in our system of government, the Supreme Court is truly the first among equals.
Compelling and supremely readable, First Among Equals sheds new light on the most frequently misunderstood legal pillar of American life.
An Alternate Selection of Book-of-the-Month Club® and a Main Selection of Conservative Book Club®
"As the Supreme Court goes, so goes much of our nation's culture, society, and politics. Ken Starr has written an engaging, informative, and easily accessible analysis of one of the most important topics of our time, from the perspective of an experienced jurist and a seasoned advocate before our highest tribunal." Robert H. Bork
"A captivating, perceptive, fair-minded portrait of the world's most powerful court, its justices, and its history...accessible to lay readers and brimming with insights for experienced Court-watchers." Stuart Taylor, columnist, National Journal magazine, and contributing editor, Newsweek
"The book is written in a clear, nontechnical style accessible to a wide readership, not just court watchers and constitutional scholars....Starr delivers attacks on Miranda and Roe v. Wade and a defense of the court's decision in Bush v. Gore. Readers-especially those on the right-interested in the law's evolution will find in this a conservative synthesis of the constitutional thinking of today's Supreme Court." Publishers Weekly
"Starr highlights the differences in legal philosophy between the Warren Court, which took an activist approach, and the post-Warren Court, which is more lawyerly in outlook....But the book is most fascinating in Starr's analysis of the subtle influences that justices exert in their opinions — whether supporting or dissenting — and their interactions with other justices." Vanessa Bush, Booklist
Book News Annotation:
Although best known for his role in facilitating the impeachment of President Clinton, Starr has also served as a federal judge and as the U.S. Solicitor General, the lawyer responsible for arguing the government's position before the Supreme Court. Here he presents an overview of the Court and some of the important issues that have come before it, with an emphasis on the cases he was personally involved in litigating. It should surprise few that, in his explanations of the issues involved, he has a tendency to side with the conservative wing of the Court. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Consisting of only nine members, each appointed by the president to serve a life-long term, the U.S. Supreme Court exerts an extensive and pervasive influence over America, handing down decisions that set the legal standards by which every American lives. Now, Kenneth Starr, most famous for his investigation of President Clinton, examines the delicate balance of personalities and judicial philosophies that makes up this esteemed body. Drawing not only on his own scholarly understanding but also on his first-hand experience arguing 25 cases before the Court, Starr traces its evolving role since the days of John Marshall, providing sharply drawn accounts of some of the most significant issues of recent years. His controversial analysis culminates in an especially provocative defense of the Court's actions in Bush vs. Gore, which decided the 2000 Presidential election in perhaps the most contentious decision in history.
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