A History of the Supreme Court Essay - Critical Essays

A History of the Supreme Court

A HISTORY OF THE SUPREME COURT actually contains everything a lay reader would want to know about the nation’s high court. The volume does more than simply provide an historical overview of the Court’s creation and evolution. In biographical sketches of the Court’s more notable justices and in economical but insightful analyses of its most significant cases, Schwartz’s work supplies readers with insights into how the Court has been shaped and how, in turn, it has helped to shape American society. In addition, Schwartz interlaces his narrative with colorful anecdotes (for example, Thomas Jefferson’s argument against donning horsehair wigs “which [make] the English judges look like rats peeping through benches of oakum!”) that bring the Court to life.

A HISTORY OF THE SUPREME COURT consists primarily of sections devoted to each of the courts—the Marshall Court, the Taney Court, and others—and is current through the Rehnquist Court and the controversial 1991 appointment of Clarence Thomas. These sections are interspersed with whole chapters devoted to four lawsuits Schwartz deems “watershed cases”: DRED SCOTT V. SANFORD (1857), LOCHNER V. NEW YORK (1905), BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION (1954), and ROE V. WADE (1973). In each of these instances, Schwartz explores not only the legal issues at stake, but the manner in which the ultimate decision and the Court’s struggle to reach it forever changed both the country and its jurisprudence. What emerges is a thorough and convincing portrait of an institution whose influence on the politics and society of the United States cannot be overestimated.