A Year in the Life of the Supreme Court

A Year in the Life of the Supreme Court

Constitutional Conflicts

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Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: Published: August 1995

Law, Politics > Political Science

Despite its importance to the life of the nation and all its citizens, the Supreme Court remains a mystery to most Americans, its workings widely felt but rarely seen firsthand. In this book, journalists who cover the Court—acting as the eyes and ears of not just the American people, but the Constitution itself—give us a rare close look into its proceedings, the people behind them, and the complex, often fascinating ways in which justice is ultimately served. Their narratives form an intimate account of a year in the life of the Supreme Court.
The cases heard by the Surpreme Court are, first and foremost, disputes involving real people with actual stories. The accidents and twists of circumstance that have brought these people to the last resort of litigation can make for compelling drama. The contributors to this volume bring these dramatic stories to life, using them as a backdrop for the larger issues of law and social policy that constitute the Court’s business: abortion, separation of church and state, freedom of speech, the right of privacy, crime, violence, discrimination, and the death penalty. In the course of these narratives, the authors describe the personalities and jurisprudential leanings of the various Justices, explaining how the interplay of these characters and theories about the Constitution interact to influence the Court’s decisions.
Highly readable and richly informative, this book offers an unusually clear and comprehensive portrait of one of the most influential institutions in modern American life.


“Smolla has gathered a compelling set of essays contributed by a veritable who’s who of reporters from the Supreme Court beat, covering a twelve-month period in the life of the court. . . . Readers will not only be informed, but also entertained by the explanations of these fascinating cases.” — Barbara A. Perry, Washington Times

“Smolla’s book — an effort at peeling back the layers of a ‘process of constitutional debate and resolution, a process uniquely American’ -- has something for anyone with varying levels of interest in the nation’s highest court. It serves well those looking for extra insight into cases while undertaking the arduous task of putting a human face on what comes before the bench.” — Julie Samuels, National Journal

"An enlightening series of journalistic snapshots of the Supreme Court by those who portray it best—reporters who have made a specialty of covering the nation’s highest Court." — Fred Graham, Chief Anchor and Managing Editor, Court TV

You don’t have to be a lawyer or a Supreme Court junkie to enjoy this book: it is as good a description—for a general audience as well as a legally trained one—of the real people and cases that come before the Supreme Court as we have ever had. This book is a joy to read." — Floyd Abrams, Constitutional attorney


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rodney A. Smolla is Allen Professor of Law at the School of Law, University of Richmond. His books include Suing the Press, Law of Defamation, Jerry Falwell v. Larry Flynt, Free Speech in an Open Society, Smolla and Nimmer on Freedom of Speech, and Federal Civil Rights Acts.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgment ix

1. Introduction, Personality and Process / Rodney A. Smolla 1

2. A Case of Old Age / Paul Barrett 31

3. The Defining Moments of Jayne Bray and Justice Blackmun / Lyle Denniston 61

4. A Search on the Street / Richard Carelli 99

5. The Intepreter and the Establishment Clause / Aaron Epstein 123

6. A Question of Innocence / Marcia Coyle 141

7. Hate Speech, Hate Crimes, and the First Amendment / David Savage 177

8. Civil Rights and Higher Education / Kay Kindred 205

9. A Claim of Sexual Harassment / Stephen Wermiel 231

10. The Supreme Court and the Cult of Secrecy / Tony Mauro 257

Appendix: Justices of the Supreme Court, 1992-93 281

Biographies of the Contributors 283

Table of Cases 287

Index 291
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Winner, 1996 American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1665-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1653-4
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