Scalia: A Court of One

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9780743296496: Scalia: A Court of One

An authoritative, deeply researched biography of the most controversial and outspoken Supreme Court justice of our time and how he chose to be “right” rather than influential.

Antonin Scalia knew only success in the first fifty years of his life. His sterling academic and legal credentials led to his nomination by President Ronald Reagan to the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in 1982. In four short years there, he successfully outmaneuvered the more senior Robert Bork to be appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986.

Scalia’s evident legal brilliance and personal magnetism led everyone to predict he would unite a new conservative majority under Chief Justice William Rehnquist and change American law in the process. Instead he became a Court of One. Rather than bringing the conservatives together, Scalia drove them apart. He attacked and alienated his more moderate colleagues Sandra Day O’Connor, then David Souter, and finally Anthony Kennedy. Scalia prevented the conservative majority from coalescing for nearly two decades.

Scalia: A Court of One is the compelling story of one of the most polarizing figures ever to serve on the nation’s highest court. It provides an insightful analysis of Scalia’s role on a Court that, like him, has moved well to the political right, losing public support and ignoring public criticism. To the delight of his substantial conservative following, Scalia’s “originalism” theory has become the litmus test for analyzing, if not always deciding, cases. But Bruce Allen Murphy shows that Scalia’s judicial conservatism is informed as much by his highly traditional Catholicism, mixed with his political partisanship, as by his reading of the Constitution. Murphy also brilliantly analyzes Scalia’s role in major court decisions since the mid-1980s and scrutinizes the ethical controversies that have dogged Scalia in recent years. A Court of One is a fascinating examination of one outspoken justice’s decision not to play internal Court politics, leaving him frequently in dissent, but instead to play for history, seeking to etch his originalism philosophy into American law.

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About the Author:

Bruce Allen Murphy is the Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he teaches American constitutional law and civil rights and liberties, American politics, and biographical writing. He is the author of Scalia; The Brandeis-Frankfurter Connection: The Secret Political Activities of Two Supreme Court Justices; Fortas: The Rise and Ruin of a Supreme Court Justice; and Wild Bill: The Legend and Life of William O. Douglas. Murphy lives with his wife in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Review:

"His biography of Justice Scalia is patient and thorough, alive both intellectually and morally, and written in fluid, unshowy prose. . . .It's a sensitive and scholarly reading of Justice Scalia's intellectual life. . . .This volume. . .functions as an M.R.I. scan of one of the most influential conservative thinkers of the 20th century." (Dwight Garner, The New York Times)

“A compelling biography of one of the most conservative, combative, and bombastic Supreme Court Justices in our nation’s history. . . . A terrific start to understanding Justice Scalia and his impact on American constitutional law.” (Kevin J. Hamilton The Seattle Times)

“[A] fair-minded biography. . . . Murphy's deeper and more scholarly focus on Scalia offers . . . an opportunity to study one justice's progress from the Reagan administration's great right hope to the more problematic character he's become.” (Paul M. Barrett The San Francisco Chronicle)

“May be the most exhaustive treatment of a sitting justice ever written. . . . Scalia is a skeptical, often critical look at its subject, but free of snark; it does its readers the service of taking Scalia’s ideas seriously.” (Jeff Shesol The New York Times Book Review)

“An intellectual biography of one of [the Supreme Court’s] most colorful members. . . . A lucid account of a wide variety of topics through the lens of judicial biography.” (Alexander Tsesis The Chicago Tribune)

“Thoroughly researched and accessible . . . a lively and informative account of Scalia’s upbringing; his education at Georgetown University, where he excelled in debate; his academic career at the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago; his work in the Nixon administration in the offices of telecommunication policy and legal counsel (in the Department of Justice); and his years on the bench.” (Glenn C. Altschuler The Boston Globe)

"In Bruce Allen Murphy, Scalia has met a timely and unintimidated biographer ready to probe. . . . In his view, understanding one of the most dazzling and polarizing jurists on the Supreme Court entails, above all, examining the inevitably murky relationship between judicial decision making and religious devotion. . . . Murphy does not shrink from adjudicating Scalia’s dueling public claims: that separating faith from public life is impossible and, at the same time, that he himself has done just that on the Court." (Dahlia Lithwick The Atlantic)

“Murphy does Scalia the unwarranted honor of treating originalism seriously but does not flinch when he gets to the bottom line: At least in Scalia's hands, originalism is not a method of judicial interpretation, it is a device to import his values into the Constitution.” (Jim Newton The Los Angeles Times)

"Endlessly fascinating . . . Scalia offers a deep examination of the man and his work, one certain to ignite the passions of partisans in our increasingly polarized nation." (Jay Strafford Richmond Times-Dispatch)

“A deeply probing biography of the controversial Supreme Court justice. . . . Murphy moves case by case in an evenhanded, thoroughgoing study.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Murphy gives Scalia’s intellect and influence its due. . . . What is strong in Scalia — and what probably irks so many fans of Scalia — is that Murphy does a good job poking holes in Scalia’s strict textual interpretation of the Constitution.” (Tom Deignan Newark Star-Ledger)

“In the long run, will Justice Scalia’s legacy be that of a solo pilot as the title of this book suggests? Or will it be that of a jurist who reinvigorated an interpretive idea that launched a thousand jurisprudential ships? Will his unwillingness to build consensus at the expense of his orthodoxy be judged as an egotistical mistake or a principled advantage?. . . . Scalia provides a rich and needed body of information by which to begin to answer such questions.” (Ronald K.L. Collins The Washington Independent Review of Books)

"Comprehensively researched, accessible, and fascinating. . . . Recommended for friend and foe alike of Nino to undersatnd just what the Supreme Court is up to." (Library Journal (starred review))

“A highly engaged, well-researched analysis of a brash justice whose single-mindedness may ultimately reduce his legacy.” (Booklist (starred review))

“[A] penetrating biography. . . . Murphy's thoughtful analysis of Scalia's intellectual journey shows just how difficult it is to straitjacket the Constitution within a narrow interpretation.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A significant achievement.” (Michael O'Donnell Washington Monthly)

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