Book Review: Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion

SUBTITLE: Liberal Champion AUTHORS: Seth Stern & Stephen Wermiel PUBLICATION DATE: October 4, 2010
PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt PAGE COUNT: 688 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-547-14625-7 (Paper)
PRICE: $35.00

Stern, a reporter for CQ, and Wermiel, a law professor and former WSJ reporter, team up to chronicle the career of US Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, who served on the High Bench during a tumultuous period from 1956 to 1990. Working from a repository of newly-released documents, as well as interviews with friends, family, colleagues, and Justice Brennan himself, the authors show how Brennan staked a liberal claim with the progressive side of the Warren Court during the mid-Twentieth Century, often invoking civil rights and privacy protections for minorities, women, and the working class. Especially revealing and insightful are the authors’ revelations about the inner workings of the Supreme Court, how the Justices arrive at their decisions, and the infrequent, yet riveting, confrontations between Brennan and his conservative counterparts. The book is a historian’s guide to the tactics and strategies behind many of the legal battles of the era over the extent of Constitutional rights and the legal struggles over such contentious issues as desegregation, affirmative action, school prayer, the death penalty, and abortion. Aimed at a scholarly audience; highly recommended for academic and law libraries, as well as larger public libraries.

Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Law Library, First Judicial District, New York, New York

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