The components of judicial decision making have been covered extensively in academic journals and books. Here, Rosen uses a historical context to examine the influence of judicial temperament on the tenures of some of the most influential Supreme Court justices. The author is a law professor at George Washington University as well as legal affairs editor at the New Republic, but the book is concise and free of legal jargon. In each chapter, Rosen compares and contrasts the personalities and backgrounds of one pair of historical figures, beginning with John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson and ending with current justice Antonin Scalia and the late chief justice William Rehnquist. Rosen's approach to judicial decision making is informative, but it leads to some very pointed and seemingly personal criticism of current justices, particularly Anthony Kennedy. However, this is a minor point in an otherwise solid work. While academic libraries can find more scholarly works, this one will be useful for public libraries wanting to build Supreme Court collections.Political Science
Authoritative analysis of how the justices' "quirks of personality and temperament" have shaped American law and made the Court one of our strongest institutions. Rosen (Law/George Washington Univ.; The Naked Crowd, 2004, etc.) traces the Court's evolution through the stories of four pairs of personalities and their clashes over important issues. The most successful justices, he argues, have been "institutionalists": effective leaders and consensus-builders who are modest, likable, able to find common ground and more concerned about the legitimacy of the Court than their own interests and agendas. The least successful justices have been insecure, heavy-handed "loners" more interested in personal glory than in quietly getting things done. Specialists will appreciate Rosen's examinations of these conflicting judicial temperaments at play during different periods in history; general readers without a solid grounding in constitutional issues may feel lost. The basic differences animating these clashing duos are made clear. Crafty and appealing Chief Justice John Marshall managed time after time to outfox his introverted, thin-skinned political opponent, Thomas Jefferson. Gregarious Justice John Marshall Harlan won out on the issue of majority rule over darker, more ideological Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. The persuasive Hugo Black, deeply devoted to the institution of the Court, proved far more influential on key issues than undisciplined, self-destructive William O. Douglas. Of modern conservative justices, Rosen finds that the pragmatic William H. Rehnquist was much more respected within the Court than Antonin Scalia, a rigid purist. A concluding chapter based on an interview withChief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. suggests that he may have the temperament of his successful predecessors. An illuminating look at the human side of the highest court.