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The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States

The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States

5.0 1
by Kermit L. Hall, William M. Wiecek (Editor), James W. Ely (Editor), Joel B. Grossman (Editor)

In Democracy in America, De Tocqueville observed that there is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one. Two hundred years of American history have certainly born out the truth of this remark. Whether a controversy is political, economic, or social, whether it focuses on child labor, slavery, prayer in


In Democracy in America, De Tocqueville observed that there is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one. Two hundred years of American history have certainly born out the truth of this remark. Whether a controversy is political, economic, or social, whether it focuses on child labor, slavery, prayer in public schools, war powers, busing, abortion, business monopolies, or capital punishment, eventually the battle is taken to court. And the ultimate venue for these vital struggles is the Supreme Court. Indeed, the Supreme Court is a prism through which the entire life of our nation is magnified and illuminated, and through which we have defined ourselves as a people.
Now, in The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, readers have a rich source of information about one of the central institutions of American life. Everything one would want to know about the Supreme Court is here, in more than a thousand alphabetically arranged entries. There are biographies of every justice who ever sat on the Supreme Court (with pictures of each) as well as entries on rejected nominees and prominent judges (such as Learned Hand), on presidents who had an important impact on—or conflict with—the Court (including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt), and on other influential figures (from Alexander Hamilton to Cass Gilbert, the architect of the Supreme Court Building). More than four hundred entries examine every major case that the court has decided, from Marbury v. Madison (which established the Court's power to declare federal laws unconstitutional) and Scott v. Sandford (the Dred Scott Case) to Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. In addition, there are extended essays on the major issues that have confronted the Court (from slavery to national security, capital punishment to religion, from affirmative action to the Vietnam War), entries on judicial matters and legal terms (ranging from judicial review and separation of powers to amicus brief and habeas corpus), articles on all Amendments to the Constitution, and an extensive, four-part history of the Court. And as in all Oxford Companions, the contributors combine scholarship with engaging insight, giving us a sense of the personality and the inner workings of the Court. They examine everything from the wanderings of the Supreme Court (the first session was held on the second floor of the Royal Exchange Building in New York City, and the Court at times has met in a Congressional committee room, a tavern, a rented house, and finally, in 1935, its own building), to the Jackson-Black Feud and the clouded resignation of Abe Fortas, to the Supreme Court's press room and the paintings and sculptures adorning the Supreme Court building.
The decisions of the Supreme Court have touched—and will continue to influence—every corner of American society. A comprehensive, authoritative guide to the Supreme Court, this volume is an essential reference source for everyone interested in the workings of this vital institution and in the multitude of issues it has confronted over the course of its history.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This oversized, dense volume provides comprehensive coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court, exploring at great depth its history, cases, procedures, and more. Originally published 13 years ago, it has now been considerably updated and expanded, featuring 86 brand new articles and commentaries on 14 new cases. Of the existing articles, about 100 have been revised, among them the entries on impeachment and Justice O'Connor. Editor Hall, a well-regarded legal scholar and historian, has written over 20 books on the American legal and constitutional system, making him highly qualified to tackle such a complex subject in reference format. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-- An extremely thorough treatment of the subject, composed of brief defining entries and lengthy essays by almost 300 contributors, including lawyers, judges, scholars, and journalists, who were charged with the responsibility of making their presentations accessible to a general readership. Entries, arranged alphabetically, cover the internal operations and history of the Court; biographical information on all of the justices plus other relevant historical figures; definitions of basic legal and constitutional terminology; and the process of selecting, nominating, and confirming justices. More than 400 entries examine the Court's most significant decisions. All are signed; those of any length are followed by selective bibliographies of further reading. Every effort has been made to provide adequate cross referencing within the text and at the end of entries. Cases (with proper citation), persons, places, and institutions are indexed. This work will be of value not only to students of the Court and constitutional law, but also to those needing information (interpretive and/or historical) about the major socioeconomic issues of our day. Illustrations, primarily portraits and photographs of the justices, are of good quality and appropriately placed. This is a landmark publication, representing the highest standard of American scholarship. It is strongly recommended for reference collections serving high school students.-- Tess McKellen, Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn
Zom Zoms
This convenient and authoritative guide to the Supreme Court succeeds well in accomplishing its goal of providing a political, economic, cultural, and legal history of the Court and, by extension, of the very country itself. In more than 1,000 entries, about 300 contributors interpret the Court to the layperson, providing historical context, evaluation, and explanation of its decisions and procedures. The contributors explain the Court's influence on American life and vice versa. While the editors are all professors of law, browsing through the list of contributors reveals professors of history, political science, and government as well as librarians, justices, attorneys, and archivists Entries are of several types. Biographies treat every justice, every nominee, and many prominent lawyers who argued before the Court. Sheldon Novick's entry on Oliver Wendell Holmes is a masterpiece of interpretation, pointing out Holmes' chief theories and influences on the Court. Conceptual entries define ideas. The entry "Double Jeopardy", for example, provides historical context, relevant cases, and the importance of the idea to the court. Institutional entries treat such matters as the clerks of the justices and the office of chief justice. Entries on the physical surroundings of the Court highlight its location. Longer entries end with brief bibliographies of nontechnical literature The more than 400 entries on Court decisions include a "U.S. Reports" citation, date argued, date decided, and chief spokesman; each entry discusses the impact of the case on American life. Interpretive entries treat substantive topics such as abortion and procedural topics such as the insanity defense. "History of the Court" is a four-part chronological essay. Other historical entries treat such broad subjects as slavery and race and racism--again, always with the interpretive approach that explains the effect of the issue on the Court as well as the Court's effect on the issue. Vocabulary entries provide definitions for basic terms like "writ of mandamus" and such famous phrases as "separate but equal" The companion is thoroughly cross-referenced. Any topic that has its own entry is marked by an asterisk in the text. "See" and "see also" references are plentiful; for example, the entry "Flag Burning" leads to several important cases and to the entry "Symbolic Speech". In a project of this scope, there is always room to quibble. For example, "McCulloch v. Maryland" is fundamental to the discussion in "State Regulation of Commerce", but the entry for the case itself does not refer to the broader entry The companion concludes with case-name and topical indexes as well as extensive appendixes, including the succession of justices, vacancies, appointing presidents, Senate votes of confirmation and rejection, length of service of each justice, and trivia and traditions of the Court. About 100 black-and-white photographs add interest The companion is a unique work. It covers landmark cases and biographies--as do "Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court", second edition ["RBB" My 1 90], and Facts On File's "Reference Guide to the United States Supreme Court" (1986)--but is in a handy A-Z arrangement and lacks the long essays of those two books. It complements but does not replace them "The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States" belongs in every library, high school and up, and on the shelf of the practitioner and the teacher. It will prove to be the standard reference work on the Supreme Court.
Herbert Jacob
THE OXFORD COMPANION is evidently intended as a reference work for students, journalists and other interested readers who wish to learn quickly about one or another aspect of the United States Supreme Court. It is edited by three legal historians (Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely, and William W. Wiecek) and one political scientist (Joel B. Grossman). It is arranged alphabet- ically by topic with signed articles by 296 (by my count) schol- ars. Some of the articles are several pages long; many occupy a column or less. A large number of the contributors are political scientists. THE OXFORD COMPANION is remarkably comprehensive if one approaches the subject from a legalistic perspective. Readers will find short biographies of all Supreme Court justices. The majority of articles are brief summaries of important cases from ABINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT V. SCHEMP to ZURCHER V. THE STANFORD DAILY. There are also articles on issues such as abortion (by Judith Baer), judicial review (by John Brigham), capital punish- ment (by Lief Carter), speedy trial (by Malcolm Feeley). Some of articles are quite substantial such as the four pieces on the history of the Court which cover 32 pages. Most are brief, encompassing less than a page. Doctrines are identified and discussed as for example, the Preferred Freedoms Doctrine (by C. Herman Pritchett), Exhaustion of Remedies (by Michael F. Sturley), and the Right to Counsel (by Susette M. Talarico). Broad concepts such as capitalism as well as topics such as the New Deal merit a lengthy articles. Important statutes are described separately in brief pieces. There are even articles on the architecture of the Supreme Court building, on Supreme Court buildings, on paintings in the Supreme Court, and on the sculp- ture in the building. Thus, THE OXFORD COMPANION is an attractive source to which to send students for an introductory understanding of particular aspects of the Supreme Court as an institution, of its proce- dures, of its decisions, and of its personnel. However, it suffers from several weaknesses that trouble this reviewer. One fault is that THE OXFORD COMPANION's references to addi- tional sources are spotty at best. Some articles cite several sources (though rarely more than a handful); many offer none at all. For instance, Lief Carter's article (approximately one page) on capital punishment mentions only Hugo Adam Bedau's THE DEATH PENALTY IN AMERICA (1987) and Errol Morris' film, "The Thin Blue Line" (1987). The articles by Lawrence Baum on reversals of Supreme Court decisions by constitutional amendment and by Congressional legislation have none at all. I presume that this was an editorial decision, but I judge it to be a bad one. Such skimpy references will not provide much assistance to students who are embarking on a term paper project. It encourages stu- dents to take the articles in the COMPANION as the last word on the subject. My second concern is that THE OXFORD COMPANION reflects little of the political science research that has occurred over the past half century. James Gibson's article on public opinion is one of the rare articles which are attentive to social science findings about the Court. Most striking is the absence of a focused discussion of interest groups and the Court even though many of the contributors to this body of knowledge write other articles in the COMPANION. Thus Stephen L. Wasby writes an article of less than a page on amicus briefs. Individual inter- est groups may be found such as the American Civil Liberties Union (in an article by Samuel Walker) and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (in brief articles by Mark V. Tushnet and Eric Rise) but students would have to know where to look and will not find much mention of the interest Page 42 follows: group literature. Of the ten articles that Harold J. Spaeth contributes, the closest he (or any other contributor) gets to scaling or judicial attitudes is his article on Justice Scalia. There is no article on voting blocs or the analysis of voting patterns although C. Herman Pritchett contributes eleven articles on individual cases. Stephen Wasby's one-column article on decision-making dynamics (p. 222) has no references. The impact of decisions (also written by Wasby) merits two columns but also has no references (pp. 422-23). The extraordinary influence of the Solicitor General in setting the Court's agenda is mentioned by Lincoln Caplan, but that influence is buried in much trivia about the SG's office. Thus, he contends that "special rela- tionship" between the SG and the Court is illustrated by the custom that when a justice dies, "the Solicitor General is asked to call a meeting of the Supreme Court bar to honor the justice." (p. 803) THE OXFORD COMPANION will prove puzzling to students whose courses introduce them to political analyses of the Court. The concepts which they learn in those courses are not readily found in this book. Although many political scientists contributed to it, readers will have difficulty ascertaining the discipline's contribution to our understanding of the Court. Is it really as small as this volume suggests? Finally, this reviewer is left to wonder why THE OXFORD COMPANION was not published on a CD-ROM. An electronic medium would make THE OXFORD COMPANION far simpler to search and incom- parably easier to update. This is a book destined for library reference rooms where CD-ROMs are now commonly found. I hope the publisher considers such a medium in the near future.
From the Publisher
"This obviously impressive and highly needed collection of over 1000 entries on the Supreme Court is sure to become the standard in the field....This fine volume is a must-have collection for any serious student of the court. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
Edition description:
Older Edition
Product dimensions:
9.50(w) x 6.88(h) x 2.38(d)

Meet the Author

About the Editors:
Kermit L. Hall (Editor in Chief) is Dean of the College of Humanities at Ohio State University. Editors are James W. Ely, Jr., Professor of Law and History at Vanderbilt University; Joel B. Grossman, Professor of Political Science and Law at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and William M. Wiecek, Chester Adgate Congdon Professor of Public Law and Legislation and Professor of History at Syracuse University.

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The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
_The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States_ ranks among the top five reference works I have perused. Actually, I read this one all the way through, from A to Z. It is the ultimate one-volume guide to American jurisprudence. There are multi-paragraph summaries of just about every High Court case of lasting significance, excellent and detailed biographies and photographs/illustrations of all the Justices through Clarence Thomas, detailed explanations of all the legal, political and historical principles and terms needed to understand the Court and its workings, and, as an added bonus, excellent biographies of figures (such as Judge Learned Hand and defeated nominees such as Haynsworth and Bork) who never served on the Court but had an influence on it in one way or another. In short, this is the only book on the Supreme Court that a layman should ever need. I can't recommend it enough - it should be the home of every educated person with an interest in the law.