Synopses & Reviews
Few American institutions have inflicted greater suffering on ordinary people than the Supreme Court of the United States. In this powerful indictment of a venerated institution, constitutional law expert Ian Millhiser tells the history of the Supreme Court through the eyes of everyday people who have suffered the most as a result of its judgements. The justices built a nation where children toiled in coal mines and cotton mills, where Americans could be forced into camps because of their race, and where women were sterilized at the command of states. The Court was the midwife of Jim Crow, the right hand of union busters, and the dead hand of the Confederacy. Nor is the modern Court a vast improvement, with its incursions on voting rights, its willingness to place elections for sale, and its growing skepticism towards the democratic process generally.
America ratified three constitutional amendments to provide equal rights to freed slaves, but the justices spent 30 years largely dismantling these amendments. Then they spent the next 40 years rewriting them into a shield for the wealthy and the powerful. Similarly, the recent, nearly successful legal attack on Obamacare was in the spirit of early twentieth century decisions like Lochner v. New York and Hammer v. Dagenhart that treated the American people's right to govern themselves with great skepticism. Recently, cases like Citizens United allowed rivers of money to flood our democracy; and Shelby County tore out the heart of American voting rights law. These cases are hardly anomalies; they fit a pattern of justices placing powerful interests above the welfare of the general public.
In the Warren Era and the few years following it, progressive justices restored the Constitution's promises of equality, free speech, and fair justice for the accused. But this era, Millhiser contends, was an historic accident. Indeed, if it wasn't for a several unpredictable eventsand#151;such as a former Ku Klux Klansman's decision to become a passionate supporter of racial justice, or a fatal heart attack that killed the Chief Justice of the United Statesand#151;Brown v. Board of Education could have gone the other way
In this book, Millhiser argues the Supreme Court does not deserve the respect it commands. To the contrary, it routinely bent the arc of American history away from justice.
"As Ian Millhiser illustrates in his trenchant, persuasive, and profoundly dispiriting book Injustices
, the Supreme Court has consistently and unapologetically used its authority to thwart progress and perpetuate inequality." and#151;Slate
and#147;Injustices is a compelling rebuke of the Supreme Court and pushes for change. While reforming the Court is not going to be easy...the fact that such well respected legal scholars are now vocally making the case against the Supreme Court is a critical first step.and#8221; and#151;Feministing
and#147;Injustices is a powerful indictment of the strongest institution of the United Statesand#133;. A must-read for all Americans.and#8221; and#151;The Washington Review of Books
"Interesting and vigorously argued... Millhiser illuminatingly details the human costs of many decisions reached by the Supreme Court..." and#151;Sanford Levinson, The History Book Club
and#147;An eye-opening look at the Court. Accessible to readers with little legal background, this is a powerful study of the branch of American government most often left uncheckedand#133;[Millhiserand#8217;s] findings are startling.and#8221; and#151;Shelf Awareness
"An impressive debut offering explanations based on coherence between people, cases and the events they adjudicated." and#151;Kirkus Reviews
and#147;They wonand#8217;t be selling Injustices at the Supreme Court gift shop. Ian Millhiserand#8217;s scathing, exuberant indictment of the many misdeeds of the nationand#8217;s highest court is a necessary, and highly entertaining, corrective to the mythology that has always surrounded the work of the Justices.and#8221; and#151;Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath and The Nine
and#147;More than just an indictment of the Supreme Court, Injustices offers a stirring defense of the role government plays in bettering peopleand#8217;s livesand#151;and a heartbreaking window into the lives that are ruined when the justices place their own agenda above the law.and#8221; and#151;Ted Strickland, former Ohio governor and US representative
and#147;Attention Howard Zinn fans. Ian Millhiser has written a Peopleand#8217;s History of the Supreme Court: partisan (in favor of and#145;the little people' rather than the elites the Court has favored), passionate, and provocative.and#8221; and#151;Susan N. Herman, president of the ACLU
and#147;A powerful critique of the Supreme Court, which shows that it has largely failed through American history to enforce the Constitution and to protect our rights. With great clarity and poignant human stories throughout, Ian Millhiser has written a book that all who are interested in American government and our legal systemand#151;which should be all of usand#151;must read.and#8221; and#151;Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean and distinguished professor of law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law
and#147;Ian Millhiserand#8217;s Injustices is a powerful reminder that for most of its history, the Supreme Court has erred on the side of protecting the privilege and powers of America's elitesand#151;and that it has so often done so by reading the Constitution upside-down. Millhiser has crafted an indictment of the Courtand#8217;s treatment of workers, minorities, women, voters, and powerless groups, with a deeply researched grounding in history and the law. His dispiriting conclusion is a powerful reminder of how much the Court matters, and how much more it could be.and#8221; and#151;Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate
and#147;Thoroughly researched and delivered with a passion for the law and the people itand#8217;s intended to protect, Injustices is an eye-opening examination of how the most powerful individuals in the American government have shaped the country.and#8221; and#151;Pop Culture Nerd
Few American institutions have inflicted greater suffering on ordinary people than the Supreme Court of the United States. Since its inception, the justices of the Supreme Court have shaped a nation where children toiled in coal mines, where Americans could be forced into camps because of their race, and where a woman could be sterilized against her will by state law. The Court was the midwife of Jim Crow, the right hand of union busters, and the dead hand of the Confederacy. Nor is the modern Court a vast improvement, with its incursions on voting rights and its willingness to place elections for sale.
In this powerful indictment of a venerated institution, Ian Millhiser tells the history of the Supreme Court through the eyes of the everyday people who have suffered the most from it. America ratified three constitutional amendments to provide equal rights to freed slaves, but the justices spent thirty years largely dismantling these amendments. Then they spent the next forty years rewriting them into a shield for the wealthy and the powerful. In the Warren era and the few years following it, progressive justices restored the Constitution's promises of equality, free speech, and fair justice for the accused. But, Millhiser contends, that was an historic accident. Indeed, if it weren't for several unpredictable events, Brown v. Board of Education could have gone the other way.
In Injustices, Millhiser argues that the Supreme Court has seized power for itself that rightfully belongs to the people's elected representatives, and has bent the arc of American history away from justice.
About the Author
Ian Millhiser is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the editor of ThinkProgress Justice. He received his JD from Duke University and clerked for Judge Eric L. Clay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. His writings have appeared in a diversity of publications, including the New York Times
, the Guardian
, the Nation
, the American Prospect
, and the Yale Law and Policy Review
. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.