The U.S. Supreme Court: A Very Short Introduction

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Overview

For 30 years, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse chronicled the activities of the U.S. Supreme Court and its justices as a correspondent for the New York Times. In this Very Short Introduction, she draws on her deep knowledge of the court's history and of its written and unwritten rules to show readers how the Supreme Court really works.

Greenhouse offers a fascinating institutional biography of a place and its people—men and women who exercise great power but ...

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Overview

For 30 years, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse chronicled the activities of the U.S. Supreme Court and its justices as a correspondent for the New York Times. In this Very Short Introduction, she draws on her deep knowledge of the court's history and of its written and unwritten rules to show readers how the Supreme Court really works.

Greenhouse offers a fascinating institutional biography of a place and its people—men and women who exercise great power but whose names and faces are unrecognized by many Americans and whose work often appears cloaked in mystery. How do cases get to the Supreme Court? How do the justices go about deciding them? What special role does the chief justice play? What do the law clerks do? How does the court relate to the other branches of government? Greenhouse answers these questions by depicting the justices as they confront deep constitutional issues or wrestle with the meaning of confusing federal statutes. Throughout, the author examines many individual Supreme Court cases to illustrate points under discussion, ranging from Marbury v. Madison, the seminal case which established judicial review, to the recent District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), which struck down the District of Columbia's gun-control statute and which was, surprisingly, the first time in its history that the Court issued an authoritative interpretation of the Second Amendment. To add perspective, Greenhouse also compares the Court to foreign courts, revealing interesting differences. For instance, no other country in the world has chosen to bestow life tenure on its judges.

A superb overview packed with telling details, this volume offers a matchless introduction to one of the pillars of American government.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] new one-of-a-kind book on the Supreme Court." —SCOTUSblog

"Linda Greenhouse has long been one of the most astute observers of the U.S. Supreme Court and most trusted translators of its mysteries and traditions. This elegant and concise guide is invaluable for beginners and veteran court watchers alike. An ideal introduction to the Court for students and citizens of all ages." —Jeffrey Rosen, professor of law, George Washington University, and legal affairs editor, The New Republic

"There is hardly anyone in the country, outside the Court, who knows the institution and its practices as well as Linda Greenhouse does."—Melvin I. Urofsky, author of Louis D. Brandeis: A Life

"Greenhouse cogently illustrates the history, functions, composition and importance of the Supreme Court. In a slim volume that you can literally carry around in your pocket, you will find a wealth of knowledge." —Yale Daily News

"[A]n amuse-bouche of a book . . . short, but pithy. After finishing this book, readers should be inspired to take up [Greenhouse's] implicit invitation to read about the Court and its impact on shaping American law in a more substantial, meatier format." —Judicature

"For those interested in how cases come to be heard by the Court, the process leading to a decision and the Court's relationship with the other branches of the federal government and the public, this is an excellent way to begin." —Washington Independent Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199754540
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/12/2012
  • Series: Very Short Introductions Series
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 587,461
  • Product dimensions: 4.30 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Greenhouse was the New York Times Supreme Court correspondent for 30 years, covering thousands of decisions written by 18 different justices. She was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in journalism (beat reporting) in 1998. She in now Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and writes a biweekly opinion column on the Supreme Court and the law for the New York Times web site. Her books include Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Journey and Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling (with Reva B. Siegel).

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Table of Contents

Chapter One: Origins
Chapter Two: The Court at Work (1)
Chapter Three: The Justices
Chapter Four: The Chief Justice
Chapter Five: The Court at Work (2)
Chapter Six: The Court and the Other Branches
Chapter Seven: The Court and the Public
Chapter Eight: The Court and the World

References
Further Reading
Appendix 1: Article III, U.S. Constitution
Appendix 2: The Supreme Court's Rules (excerpts)
Appendix 3: Chart of the Justices
Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The US Supreme Court is one of America¿s most revered institutio

    The US Supreme Court is one of America’s most revered institutions. It is the pinnacle of the third branch of the US government, and over the history of the Republic has had an increasing importance in its public and political life. In fact, some of its decisions have had more profound effects on the life and culture than almost any policy enacted by the rest of the federal government.

    This very short introduction gives a very comprehensive and interesting overview of the US Supreme Court – its function within the US constitutional framework, its evolving history, its social and political impact, and the biographical sketches of some of the most famous Supreme Court justices. The book is very well written, informative and engaging. It provides some interesting new information about the Supreme Court that is generally not well known, such as that it only had its own building on the Capitol Hill since the 1930s. The book also provides some insights into the court’s politics that have been gleaned form the research on its numerous decisions, and the way they tend to “evolve” over time. The book is very short, even for these very short introductions, but it manages to condense a lot of information in such a confined format. It also provides references for further reading, so if reading this book whets your appetite for more information on this subject, you’ll know where to go.

    The US Supreme Court and its judicial proclamation are bound to create a lot of interest in the upcoming years, so getting to know better this institution is essential for anyone who wants to be well informed about current events. This little book provides a perfect short introduction and it’s an invaluable handy resource. Highly recommended.

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