Antonin Scalia knew only success in the first fifty years of his life. Read more...
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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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-04-07
- Reviewer: Staff
Justice Antonin Scalia is fighting a losing battle to put his conservative stamp on the Supreme Court, according to this penetrating biography by historian Murphy (Wild Bill). The book reveals a smart, ebullient, gleefully argumentative man with an intellect and militancy honed by Jesuit educators. Scalia's "originalist" juridical philosophy is based on close, sometimes tortured, readings of the Constitution. The author argues that Scalia's uncompromising abrasiveness has alienated even court conservatives—especially his nemesis, the erratic, sentimental Justice Anthony Kennedy. Murphy also suggests that rather than providing a neutral, consistent rule book for interpreting the Constitution, Scalia's originalism is a morass of biased "law-office history" that amounts to "just another tool to reach whatever ideological result that a judge preferred." He probes Scalia's evolving ideas through detailed recaps of his judicial opinions on controversial issues from abortion and gun control to gay marriage, along with accounts of behind-the-scenes court politicking and extensive (sometimes rambling) quotations from the justice's speeches; Scalia's entertainingly tactless public utterances are also sampled. Murphy's thoughtful analysis of Scalia's intellectual journey shows just how difficult it is to straitjacket the Constitution within a narrow interpretation. Photos. (June)