Out of Order : Stories from the History of the Supreme Court
by Sandra Day O'Connor


"I called this book Out of Order because it reflects my goal, which is to share a different side of the Supreme Court. Most people know the Court only as it exists between bangs of the gavel, when the Court comes to order to hear arguments or give opinions.  Read more...

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More About Out of Order by Sandra Day O'Connor

"I called this book Out of Order because it reflects my goal, which is to share a different side of the Supreme Court. Most people know the Court only as it exists between bangs of the gavel, when the Court comes to order to hear arguments or give opinions. But the stories of the Court and the Justices that come from the 'out of order' moments add to the richness of the Court as both a branch of our government and a human institution."--Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

From Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court, comes this fascinating book about the history and evolution of the highest court in the land.

Out of Order sheds light on the centuries of change and upheaval that transformed the Supreme Court from its uncertain beginnings into the remarkable institution that thrives and endures today. From the early days of circuit-riding, when justices who also served as trial judges traveled thousands of miles per year on horseback to hear cases, to the changes in civil rights ushered in by Earl Warren and Thurgood Marshall; from foundational decisions such as Marbury v. Madison to modern-day cases such as Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Justice O'Connor weaves together stories and lessons from the history of the Court, charting turning points and pivotal moments that have helped define our nation's progress.

With unparalleled insight and her unique perspective as a history-making figure, Justice O'Connor takes us on a personal exploration, painting vivid pictures of Justices in history, including Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., one of the greatest jurists of all time; Thurgood Marshall, whose understated and succinct style would come to transform oral argument; William O. Douglas, called "The Lone Ranger" because of his impassioned and frequent dissents; and John Roberts, whom Justice O'Connor considers to be the finest practitioner of oral argument she has ever witnessed in Court. We get a rare glimpse into the Supreme Court's inner workings: how cases are chosen for hearing; the personal relationships that exist among the Justices; and the customs and traditions, both public and private, that bind one generation of jurists to the next--from the seating arrangements at Court lunches to the fiercely competitive basketball games played in the Court Building's top-floor gymnasium, the so-called "highest court in the land."

Wise, candid, and assured, Out of Order is a rich offering of inspiring stories of one of our country's most important institutions, from one of our country's most respected pioneers.

Praise for Out of Order

" A] succinct, snappy account of how today's court--so powerful, so controversial and so frequently dissected by the media--evolved from such startlingly humble and uncertain beginnings."--The New York Times

"A brief and accessible history of the nation's highest court, narrated by a true historical figure and a jurisprudential giant."--The Boston Globe

"A vibrantly personal book that] displays O'Connor's uncommon common sense, her dry wit and her reverence for the nation's institutions."--Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Full of riveting anecdotes . . . a compact history . . . albeit a more lighthearted, personality-filled one than you might find in a high school classroom."--Associated Press

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  • ISBN-13: 9780812993929
  • ISBN-10: 0812993926
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Publish Date: March 2013
  • Page Count: 233
  • Dimensions: 9.59 x 6.53 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.21 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Law > Courts - General
Books > Political Science > American Government - Judicial Branch
Books > History > United States - General

BookPage Reviews

The Supreme Court in O'Connor's words

Since her retirement from the Supreme Court in 2006, Sandra Day O’Connor has given prominent support to the improvement of civics education, with special focus on the role of the judiciary in American government. Out of Order is fully in keeping with that mission. With a brisk pace and a conversational style, Justice O’Connor’s book succeeds in giving the reader an accessible view of how the court works and how it has changed over time.

Out of Order opens with a vignette about O’Connor’s first trip to the Supreme Court as a “simple tourist,” decades before she became the first woman to ascend to its bench. Now invested with 25 years of experience and a passion for the court’s history, her book is aimed at readers who, like her at one time, might never have hoped to get closer to the court than its marble steps. We learn of how justices were once expected to log hundreds of miles on horseback each year to hear cases in other courts around the country. We hear about notable court cases and discover how they affected the course of American history. We meet great oral advocates and charismatic judges, and we get an inside view of judicial humor and the rituals that permeate the court. Though close followers of the court will be familiar with much of this material, O’Connor provides tidbits of trivia that may surprise even the winner of your local law school’s fantasy Supreme Court league. Who knew that Justice Rutledge could not attend the August 1790 session because he was incapacitated by gout?

It is worth noting what this book is not. It does not provide any commentary on contemporary judicial debates, nor is it colored by O’Connor’s opinions. Indeed, the book’s tone is such that the reader may sometimes forget that the author is a person who lived the history she’s writing about. But what Out of Order does do is provide a clear, informative and entertaining lesson in history and civics. Those searching for a fundamental understanding of the Supreme Court will do well to turn to this volume.

BAM Customer Reviews