The Center Holds: The Power Struggle Inside the Rehnquist Court

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In an unprecedented inside account of the struggle for the soul of the Supreme Court during the Reagan and Bush years, James F. Simon draws on personal interviews and confidential court papers to reveal the battle to preserve the center against attacks from the court's right wing. He focuses on crucial issues in American law - abortion rights, racial discrimination, First Amendment freedoms, and capital punishment - to chronicle the most intense confrontations between the old liberal order and the emerging ...
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Overview

In an unprecedented inside account of the struggle for the soul of the Supreme Court during the Reagan and Bush years, James F. Simon draws on personal interviews and confidential court papers to reveal the battle to preserve the center against attacks from the court's right wing. He focuses on crucial issues in American law - abortion rights, racial discrimination, First Amendment freedoms, and capital punishment - to chronicle the most intense confrontations between the old liberal order and the emerging conservative majority. The Center Holds is a vivid, behind the-scenes look at how the justices fought - sometimes diplomatically, sometimes with bare-knuckled determination - for the soul of the Rehnquist Court, and of how, in the end, the center held.

In the first in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the Supreme Court since Bob Woodward's 1980 bestseller The Brethren, Simon provides a fascinating account of the decade-long battle for the soul of the Court, revealing how the Justices' independent voices staved off the conservative revolution. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``This is the story of a conservative judicial revolution that failed,'' declares Simon (The Antagonists), a professor at New York Law School, in this readable, sometimes intimate look at some key Supreme Court cases since the early 1980s. While the leadership of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the country's conservative tilt in the '80s portended a shift to the right in the Supreme Court, the unpredictable independence of Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter has, argues Simon, staved off such change. President Clinton's two appointees, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, have solidified the center. Simon intersperses biographical sketches of the justices with close looks at cases in areas like abortion (Webster), capital punishment (McCleskey) and flag burning (Johnson). Most valuable are Simon's descriptions of the memos and drafts-gleaned from confidential sources and the recently opened Thurgood Marshall papers-in which the justices argued and struggled to find majorities. While neither as juicy nor as deep as Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong's The Brethren, this book has some valuable material for Court followers. (Aug.)
Mary Carroll
For 22 years (196991), Republican presidents filled every Supreme Court vacancy, 10 in all. When Nixon nominee Rehnquist became chief justice in 1986, conservative Republicans were confident the Court would finally reverse the liberal decisions of the Warren and Burger eras. But they were wrong, and Simon--former "Time" correspondent and contributing editor, ex-dean and now a professor at New York Law School, and author of four award-winning books on judicial history--examines why. Simon focuses on key decisions on civil rights and civil liberties issues. On the subject of race, he scrutinizes "Patterson "v." McLean Credit Union" (1989). On abortion, he retraces the evolution of "Roe" v." Wade" (1973) and sketches the internal debate over later cases, particularly "Webster" (1989) and "Casey" (1992). The central concern of the section "Crime and Punishment" is capital punishment, especially the appeals of Warren McCleskey and Oreste Fulminante; a fourth section analyzes First Amendment cases involving the Establishment Clause and laws criminalizing flag burning. "The Center Holds" is a fascinating inside look at who the Supreme Court justices are, how they have made vital decisions, and why, ultimately, the Rehnquist Revolution failed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684802930
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 8/1/1995
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.49 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

James F. Simon is the Martin Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus at New York Law School. He is the author of seven previous books on American history, law, and politics. His books have won the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award and twice been named New York Times Notable Books. He lives with his wife in West Nyack, New York.

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Table of Contents

Preface 11
Pt. I Race 17
Pt. II Abortion 83
Pt. III Crime and Punishment 169
Pt. IV The First Amendment 235
Epilogue 295
Afterword 305
Source Notes 309
Acknowledgments 321
Index 323
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