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Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas
     

Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas

5.0 3
by Dale Carpenter
 

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Equal parts investigative legal history and compelling detective tale, Flagrant Conduct is the still-untold story of Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark Supreme Court decision that promises to be the Brown v. Board of gay rights. From the 1998 arrest of Houston defendants John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, charged with sodomy in Lawrence's own bedroom, to

Overview

Equal parts investigative legal history and compelling detective tale, Flagrant Conduct is the still-untold story of Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark Supreme Court decision that promises to be the Brown v. Board of gay rights. From the 1998 arrest of Houston defendants John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, charged with sodomy in Lawrence's own bedroom, to the stirring Supreme Court ruling five years later, Flagrant Conduct is an insightful work of formidable scholarship. Drawing from dozens of new interviews that yield surprising new evidence, Dale Carpenter reexamines the motives of almost every character involved, from the arresting police officers to the brilliant gay-rights attorneys, whose maneuverings brought the case to national attention, to the nine Supreme Court justices whose predispositions are on full display. With the legal battle over gay marriage looming, this first complete history of the case, which expanded the legal rights of millions of gay and lesbian Americans, could not be timelier.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a presidential election year when the debate over gay marriage rages, Carpenter returns to the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas which overturned state laws criminalizing consensual homosexual sex. Carpenter’s probing research leads him to question the basic facts of the case: that in Houston in 1998, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were engaged in anal sex when sheriff’s deputies entered Lawrence’s apartment, ostensibly looking for an armed man. Carpenter lays out the case’s background, including the machismo that dominated the sheriff’s office and Texas’s history of antigay laws. The story of this case is many-layered, from the stakes for the litigants to the cultural crosscurrents and often shifting societal values; strategic legal gamesmanship; and the prejudices and predilections of Supreme Court justices. Carpenter, professor of civil rights and civil liberty law at the University of Minnesota, integrates all of these parallel parts for a fully rounded account that captures the human and legal dimensions of this groundbreaking case. In his view of the case’s significance: “It was a judgment that gay sex, too, might lead... lasting relationships.” Carpenter presents an engrossing depiction of a pivotal case in 21st-century American jurisprudence. 8 pages of illus. Agent: . (Mar.)
Don Franzen - Los Angeles Review of Books
“Dale Carpenter’s Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas presents a micro-history of a Texas case that against all odds reached the Untied States Supreme Court and resulted in the constitutional abolition of anti-sodomy laws…. Living constitutionalists will look to evolving societal norms and the compulsion of precedent, including Lawrence v. Texas, to argue that the time has come to recognize a constitutional right to marry whom you will.”
Tim Pfaff - The Bay Area Reporter
“Carpenter brings to it all a novelist's gift for character and a dramatist's for scene. In the gripping chapter on the oral arguments at the Court, Paul Smith, the petitioners' counsel, is depicted as memorably as Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird .”
New York Times
Flagrant Conduct is a stirring and richly detailed account of Lawrence v. Texas, the momentous 2003 decision that overturned Bowers [v. Hardwick]. Carpenter...tells the story through the eyes of the major players — the plaintiffs, arresting officers, attorneys, judges and prosecutors — most of whom were interviewed at length. The result is a book that turns conventional wisdom about Lawrence on its head. Indeed, the readers most likely to be surprised by Flagrant Conduct are those who think they already know the basic outlines of the case.— David Oshinsky
New Yorker
[An] important new book... [A] chronicle that peels the Lawrence case back through layers of carefully choreographed litigation and tactical appeals, back to the human protagonists we never really got to know, and back again through centuries of laws criminalizing “unnatural” sexual activity.— Dahlia Lithwick
Booklist
Starred review. In compelling and eminently readable prose—as gripping as any detective novel—Carpenter reveals the details behind the famous legal battle. ...It is a story, according to the author, that involves the misuse of authority, the cowardice of elected state-court judges who rebuffed the defendants’ legal claims, and the refusal of legislators to repeal a dubious and odious law. An important book about a landmark case.— June Sawyers
San Francisco Chronicle
Dale Carpenter’s excellent new book, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas is not only an in-depth study of the complicated background of the case, but also a highly informative, detailed, even thrilling account of how the Supreme Court arguments reshaped American law, possibly even inadvertently leading to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

...Carpenter moves into John Grisham territory as a group of rebels with a very good cause...mount their battle against not only the Texas law but all existing state sodomy laws. Carpenter’s tale of the arrest — and how it affected these men’s lives— is fascinating, but his recounting of the Supreme Court hearings is a fine piece of dramatic reporting that sharpens the drama and presents the legal issues and personalities with clarity.— Michael Bronkski

The New York Review of Books
Flagrant Conduct provides a rich, meticulous, and fascinating account of the most important constitutional decision so far on the status of gays and lesbians in American society.— David Cole
lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com
Easily the best book of its kind since Richard Kluger’s Simple Justice was published in 1975, Flagrant Conduct is a rare combination of virtues. It is a gripping story of individuals fighting against systematic injustices intended for a general audience, but it is also a theoretically sophisticated work that represents an important contribution to legal scholarship.— Scott Lemieux
The Daily Beast
In his sinuous, elegant new book, Flagrant Conduct, Dale Carpenter... gives this landmark case the bold, intimate face it has long deserved, even as he conducts a captivating, forensic tour of its legal subterrain. The result, from its first pages, is a book that sets a benchmark for the writing of civil-rights history, a book with all the stirring social consciousness and staying power of Taylor Branch’s trilogy, America in the King Years.— Kirk Swinehart
The Bay Area Reporter
Carpenter brings to it all a novelist's gift for character and a dramatist's for scene. In the gripping chapter on the oral arguments at the Court, Paul Smith, the petitioners' counsel, is depicted as memorably as Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird .— Tim Pfaff
New Republic
Superb and memorable…. Dale Carpenter’s assiduous unearthing of the case’s early history…highlights how every great constitutional decision owes its existence to obscure individuals whose crucial contributions proved more essential to the final outcome than anything in the legal briefs or oral arguments.— David J. Grarrow
Geoffrey R. Stone
“Dale Carpenter's Flagrant Conduct does for Lawrence v. Texas what Richard Kluger's Simple Justice and Anthony Lewis's Gideon's Trumpet did for Brown v. Board of Education and Gideon v. Wainwright. It tells the story of a profoundly dramatic and important Supreme Court decision in a way that brings to life the stakes, the participants, the justices, and the drama of the constitutional controversy. It is a landmark achievement.”
David Levering Lewis
“A terrific book. Generations of future readers of Dale Carpenter's powerful, enveloping narrative will shake their heads in disbelief that, until Lawrence v. Texas, civil rights stopped at the bedroom door.”
The Bay Area Reporter - Tim Pfaff
“Carpenter brings to it all a novelist's gift for character and a dramatist's for scene. In the gripping chapter on the oral arguments at the Court, Paul Smith, the petitioners' counsel, is depicted as memorably as Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird .”
Library Journal
The 2003 landmark Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court case established the right of homosexuals to engage in private sexual conduct. After setting the sociopolitical and legal scene, Carpenter (Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, Univ. of Minnesota Law Sch.) describes the 1998 arrest of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner and the ensuing events as gay rights groups in Houston grasped the potential of the case as a national test. Chapters introduce participants, describe the so-called crime, compare differing accounts of the arrest, follow court events, and explain the stakes. Carpenter excels at discussing legal strategies and Supreme Court arguments, and the elite lawyers and strategists of the defense team are shown in stark contrast to the ill-prepared Harris County district attorney. VERDICT Books covering similar ground include Carlos A. Ball's From the Closet to the Courtroom, which describes five major LGBTQ cases, and David A. J. Richards's The Sodomy Cases, which discusses both Bowers v. Hardwick and Lawrence v. Texas, but Carpenter's is the most thorough account and analysis of the case available. An interesting and insightful book recommended for lawyers, students, and scholars interested in public policy and LGBTQ studies.—Mary Jane Brustman, SUNY Albany Libs.
Kirkus Reviews
A character-rich account of the 2003 landmark Lawrence v. Texas case in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1986 decision in the Bowers v. Hardwick sodomy case and effectively made same-sex sexual activity legal throughout the country. Carpenter (Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Law/University of Minnesota Law School) demonstrates both the transformation in public thinking about homosexuality and the evolution of jurisprudence on sexuality. He opens with the night in 1998 when police in Harris County, Texas, entered the home of John Lawrence and arrested him and Tyron Garner on charges of sodomy; he follows the case through the various maneuverings necessary to take it to the Supreme Court. Found guilty by a justice of the peace, the men subsequently appeared before the Texas Criminal Court, which denied a request to dismiss the charges on Fourteenth Amendment equal protection grounds and on right to privacy grounds. A Texas Court of Appeals also rejected this argument, and after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to review the case, it headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lambda Legal, a national organization supporting gay and lesbian rights, led the challenge, supported by Jenner & Block, a legal firm with considerable Supreme Court experience. Carpenter's account is filled with relevant quotes by and colorful descriptions of the parties involved: defendants, police, lawyers and civil rights activists, district attorneys and Texas judges, and most of all Supreme Court Justices. The author, who was present when the case was argued before the Supreme Court, is forthright in giving his personal impressions that day of the demeanor of Justices, lawyers, and concerned onlookers. He follows this with imagined scenes of how the Justices might have discussed the issues afterward, and then returns to the scene in the courtroom, three months later, when the decision was announced. Finally, he depicts reactions to the decision among gay-rights supporters and those like Justice Scalia who were outraged by it. A legal commentator's informative, highly readable account of a case that has been likened in significance to Brown v. Board of Education and Gideon v. Wainwright.
The Nation
“... an exceptional book, in the tradition of Anthony Lewis’s Gideon’s Trumpet (1964), expertly guiding the reader from the moment of the arrest through the culminating oral argument in the Supreme Court. Flagrant Conduct is also a moving and deeply humane study of the law’s effect on ordinary people.”
David Oshinsky - New York Times
“Stirring and richly detailed. . . . A book that turns conventional wisdom about Lawrence on its head. Indeed, the readers most likely to be surprised by Flagrant Conduct are those who think they already know the basic outlines of the case.”
Dahlia Lithwick - New Yorker
“[An] important new book... [A] chronicle that peels the Lawrence case back through layers of carefully choreographed litigation and tactical appeals, back to the human protagonists we never really got to know, and back again through centuries of laws criminalizing “unnatural” sexual activity.”
June Sawyers - Booklist
“Starred review. In compelling and eminently readable prose—as gripping as any detective novel—Carpenter reveals the details behind the famous legal battle. ...It is a story, according to the author, that involves the misuse of authority, the cowardice of elected state-court judges who rebuffed the defendants’ legal claims, and the refusal of legislators to repeal a dubious and odious law. An important book about a landmark case.”
Michael Bronkski - San Francisco Chronicle
“Dale Carpenter’s excellent new book, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas is not only an in-depth study of the complicated background of the case, but also a highly informative, detailed, even thrilling account of how the Supreme Court arguments reshaped American law, possibly even inadvertently leading to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
...Carpenter moves into John Grisham territory as a group of rebels with a very good cause...mount their battle against not only the Texas law but all existing state sodomy laws. Carpenter’s tale of the arrest — and how it affected these men’s lives— is fascinating, but his recounting of the Supreme Court hearings is a fine piece of dramatic reporting that sharpens the drama and presents the legal issues and personalities with clarity.”
David Cole - The New York Review of Books
“Flagrant Conduct provides a rich, meticulous, and fascinating account of the most important constitutional decision so far on the status of gays and lesbians in American society.”
Larry Kramer
“An important and scary book.”
Scott Lemieux - lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com
“Easily the best book of its kind since Richard Kluger’s Simple Justice was published in 1975, Flagrant Conduct is a rare combination of virtues. It is a gripping story of individuals fighting against systematic injustices intended for a general audience, but it is also a theoretically sophisticated work that represents an important contribution to legal scholarship.”
Blanche Wiesen Cook
“Dale Carpenter has gifted us with a landmark book to dramatize a landmark case. Gripping and brilliantly researched, Flagrant Conduct takes us on a journey of hate and contempt, activism and dedication that finally led to the legalization of our right to love, to pursue intimate pleasures within the privacy of our homes. Everybody concerned about women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights and human rights will be informed and energized by this important splendid book.”
Kirk Swinehart - The Daily Beast
“In his sinuous, elegant new book, Flagrant Conduct, Dale Carpenter... gives this landmark case the bold, intimate face it has long deserved, even as he conducts a captivating, forensic tour of its legal subterrain. The result, from its first pages, is a book that sets a benchmark for the writing of civil-rights history, a book with all the stirring social consciousness and staying power of Taylor Branch’s trilogy, America in the King Years.”
David J. Grarrow - New Republic
“Superb and memorable…. Dale Carpenter’s assiduous unearthing of the case’s early history…highlights how every great constitutional decision owes its existence to obscure individuals whose crucial contributions proved more essential to the final outcome than anything in the legal briefs or oral arguments.”
New York Times - David Oshinsky
“Stirring and richly detailed. . . . A book that turns conventional wisdom about Lawrence on its head. Indeed, the readers most likely to be surprised by Flagrant Conduct are those who think they already know the basic outlines of the case.”
New Yorker - Dahlia Lithwick
“[An] important new book... [A] chronicle that peels the Lawrence case back through layers of carefully choreographed litigation and tactical appeals, back to the human protagonists we never really got to know, and back again through centuries of laws criminalizing "unnatural" sexual activity.”
Booklist - June Sawyers
“Starred review. In compelling and eminently readable prose—as gripping as any detective novel—Carpenter reveals the details behind the famous legal battle. ...It is a story, according to the author, that involves the misuse of authority, the cowardice of elected state-court judges who rebuffed the defendants’ legal claims, and the refusal of legislators to repeal a dubious and odious law. An important book about a landmark case.”
San Francisco Chronicle - Michael Bronkski
“Dale Carpenter’s excellent new book, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas is not only an in-depth study of the complicated background of the case, but also a highly informative, detailed, even thrilling account of how the Supreme Court arguments reshaped American law, possibly even inadvertently leading to the legalization of same-sex marriage....Carpenter moves into John Grisham territory as a group of rebels with a very good cause...mount their battle against not only the Texas law but all existing state sodomy laws. Carpenter’s tale of the arrest — and how it affected these men’s lives— is fascinating, but his recounting of the Supreme Court hearings is a fine piece of dramatic reporting that sharpens the drama and presents the legal issues and personalities with clarity.”
The New York Review of Books - David Cole
“Flagrant Conduct provides a rich, meticulous, and fascinating account of the most important constitutional decision so far on the status of gays and lesbians in American society.”
lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com - Scott Lemieux
“Easily the best book of its kind since Richard Kluger’s Simple Justice was published in 1975, Flagrant Conduct is a rare combination of virtues. It is a gripping story of individuals fighting against systematic injustices intended for a general audience, but it is also a theoretically sophisticated work that represents an important contribution to legal scholarship.”
The Daily Beast - Kirk Swinehart
“In his sinuous, elegant new book, Flagrant Conduct, Dale Carpenter... gives this landmark case the bold, intimate face it has long deserved, even as he conducts a captivating, forensic tour of its legal subterrain. The result, from its first pages, is a book that sets a benchmark for the writing of civil-rights history, a book with all the stirring social consciousness and staying power of Taylor Branch’s trilogy, America in the King Years.”
New Republic - David J. Grarrow
“Superb and memorable…. Dale Carpenter’s assiduous unearthing of the case’s early history…highlights how every great constitutional decision owes its existence to obscure individuals whose crucial contributions proved more essential to the final outcome than anything in the legal briefs or oral arguments.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393062083
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/12/2012
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

What People are Saying About This

Larry Kramer
An important and scary book.
David Levering Lewis
A terrific book. Generations of future readers of Dale Carpenter's powerful, enveloping narrative will shake their heads in disbelief that, until Lawrence v. Texas, civil rights stopped at the bedroom door.

Meet the Author

Dale Carpenter is the Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law at the University of Minnesota Law School. He lives in Minneapolis.

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Flagrant Conduct 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Even though one knows from the first pages what the outcome will be, one cannot stop reading! If you are at all interested in the Supreme Court, if you like John Grisham's legal shenanigans, if you just like to see the pieces fall into place by way of masterful planning, you will love watching old, worn-out laws crumble and fall away! Dale Carpenter is a master story teller telling a non-fiction tale!
DrDonnie More than 1 year ago
This is the best nonfiction book I have read since Game Change. Absolutely fascinating!
HarrietteWilson More than 1 year ago
Engaging, thoroughly researched book goes into the history and personalities behind the Lawrence v. Texas decision, a landmark for gay rights.