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Kirkus ReviewsThe sequel to Irons's first look inside the Supreme Court offers edited versions of arguments addressing pivotal, controversial issues regarding the First Amendment.
Like the first volume, this is based on recordings of oral arguments, often by prominent lawyers such as Lawrence Tribe and William Kunstler, before the Supreme Court. These arguments are made in an atmosphere of high solemnity and drama. Through sophisticated, penetrating questioning, often leading to energetic dialogues with the arguing attorneys, the justices probe the strengths and weaknesses of the contending parties' respective legal arguments. As spoken constitutional history providing unique glimpses into the reasoning process of our highest court, oral arguments are worthy of serious study. Along with tape recordings of 16 First Amendment arguments (four 90-minute cassettes accompany the book, but were not available for previewing), Irons (Brennan vs. Rehnquist: The Battle for the Constitution, 1994, etc.; Political Science/Univ. of Calif., San Diego) provides a text consisting of excerpts from each argument, preceded by a summary of the particular legal issue involved and followed by an edited version of the court's written decision, as well as opinions by dissenting justices. The issues are well selected, covering many fascinating and momentous matters, including burning the American flag, nude dancing, hate speech, prayer in public schools, the meaning of obscenity, and Reverend Jerry Falwell's ultimately unsuccessful suit against Hustler magazine for printing a parody suggesting that Falwell once had intercourse with his mother in an outhouse.
The heavily edited arguments make lively and informative reading and should be welcome in the library of any university or law office; but the very brief prologues to each case and the book's three-page introduction provide scant background for laypersons unfamiliar with the perplexing intricacies of First Amendment jurisprudence.