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Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices (Anglais) Relié – 8 novembre 2010


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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

"Scorpions is a deft and sophisticated panoramic history of a fascinating era, an important one of Supreme Court jurisprudence, told simply without losing substance . . . Through excellent storytelling and absorbing case histories about interesting, ambitious men grappling with profound and complicated issues-and with each other-Feldman's approach will satisfy constitutional scholars as well as inform readers in the general public. His broad canvas is both accessible and thoughtful."—Washington Lawyer


"By so personifying competing modes of constitutional interpretation, Feldman, a law professor, elevates the story from specialty to general interest and, to boot, embroiders technicalities about original intent and the like with animosities that roiled the quartet . . . Taking readers into the conference room, Feldman shows this unpolished side of the Supreme Court in cases of the 1940s, culminating in his account about how Frankfurter achieved unanimity in the landmark desegregation case of Brown v. Board of Education. The interpersonal factor in court politics is knowledgeably displayed in Feldman's intriguing account."—Booklist

"The pleasure of this book comes from Feldman's skill as a narrator of intellectual history. With confidence and an eye for telling details he relates the story of the backstage deliberations . . . Feldman is especially good in describing how the clashing personalities and philosophies of his four protagonists were reflected in their negotiations and final opinions . . . This is a first-rate work of narrative history that succeeds in bringing the intellectual and political battles of the post-Roosevelt Court vividly to life."—Publishers Weekly


"Of Franklin Roosevelt's nine Supreme Court appointments, four have had lasting influence ... Feldman neatly demonstrates how their careers and personal histories accounted for their mutual resentments and shaped their distinctive approaches to constitutional interpretation. Frankfurter's judicial restraint, Black's originalism, Jackson's pragmatism and Douglas's realism-four interpretive doctrines that continue to reverberate-are fleshed out in accessible discussions of important cases dealing with presidential power and civil rights. The process of how they put aside personal differences and individual philosophies to reach agreement in the historic Brown v. Board of Education is only part of the author's revealing exploration.

An immensely readable history that goes behind the façade of our most august institution to reveal the flesh-and-blood characters who make our laws."

Kirkus (Starred Review)


"Noah Feldman's book is more than a fascinating group biography of four complicated, brilliant, and ambitious men, and more than a precise and illuminating account of liberalism and Constitutional law. It's also a window on history-from Sacco and Vanzetti and the Great Depression to Pearl Harbor, the Nuremberg Trials, the Cold War, and the Civil Rights Movement. There is adventure on every page."—Louis Menand, author of The Metaphysical Club

"In this splendid biography, Noah Feldman sets out to tell the story of the making of the modern Constitution-and thus of modern America itself-through the lives of Franklin Roosevelt and four of his Supreme Court justices. The result is a terrific tale of politics and principle, personality and vision. The battles of these four 'scorpions' gave us our world, and Feldman's excellent book is a powerful and original contribution to our understanding of the 20th century-and of our own."

Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning author of American Lion


"FDR appointed larger-than-life characters to the Supreme Court, and SCORPIONS brings them vividly to life - and reminds us why, strangely enough, they matter today more than ever."—Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Présentation de l'éditeur

A tiny, ebullient Jew who started as America's leading liberal and ended as its most famous judicial conservative. A Klansman who became an absolutist advocate of free speech and civil rights. A backcountry lawyer who started off trying cases about cows and went on to conduct the most important international trial ever. A self-invented, tall-tale Westerner who narrowly missed the presidency but expanded individual freedom beyond what anyone before had dreamed.

Four more different men could hardly be imagined. Yet they had certain things in common. Each was a self-made man who came from humble beginnings on the edge of poverty. Each had driving ambition and a will to succeed. Each was, in his own way, a genius.

They began as close allies and friends of FDR, but the quest to shape a new Constitution led them to competition and sometimes outright warfare. SCORPIONS tells the story of these four great justices: their relationship with Roosevelt, with each other, and with the turbulent world of the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. It also serves as a history of the modern Constitution itself.



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Amazon.com: 56 commentaires
81 internautes sur 83 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
...good narrative history of the Supreme Court in the mid twentieth century 28 octobre 2010
Par Philly gal - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Scorpions - the title references a description of the Supreme Court Justices as "nine scorpions in a bottle" - is the story of four widely different justices all appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt. These four, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson and William O. Douglas could not have been more dissimiliar. Frankfurter, a Jew was perhaps the most liberal voice in the country when Roosevelt appointed him to the court. Black was a southern country lawyer former KKK member with an altogether unique interpretation of the constitution, Jackson, a plain spoken lawyer seeking a pragmatic resolution to court cases and Douglas, a westerner who defined wide limits for individual freedom. I enjoyed the detail and back story the author presented on all of these men. The intellectual growth that allowed these men to listen, learn and change their minds from where they started was so appealing in this story. Black from a KKK member to perhaps the strongest civil rights supporter on the court. Frankfurter from the most liberal to arguably the most conservative member of the court. I was fascinated at how men of such widely divergent backgrounds could come together to decide some of the most important issues of the twentieth century. The background of the Japanese interment in WWII, Truman's seizure of the steel mills, civil rights and lastly the Brown v. the Board of Education decisions are all covered with the deliberations and interactions that led to the court decisions. Personalities are on full display. I admit much of the legal theories were lost on me and did for me (the clearly non legal reader) drag out the story a bit but I still enjoyed this book as a history of the Supreme Court and the justices who served there. In today's acrimonious political environment one really longs for the time when disagreements were discussed, debated and had compromises developed that moved the country forward. A good narrative history of the Supreme Courtin the mid twentieth century.
57 internautes sur 58 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
I doubt even the author realizes how good this book is - Finest book ever written about the Supreme Court !!!! 19 novembre 2010
Par Richad of Connecticut - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
By way of disclosure I am a private scholar who has studied the interplay of power among different institutions and entities, whether it is government, corporations, or other power groups. I have been a member of the Supreme Court Historical Society for many of the last 30 years and I have been fortunate to have developed personal relationships with many associate justices and two Chief Justices. Having said that, I am simply amazed at the wonderfully expertly written, fascinating, and breathtaking book that Feldman has written.

His anecdotes and historical references are both brilliant and factual. He has truly captured the essence of the Supreme Court and its stormy relationship with FDR during a critical period of American history. This was during the 1930's and for the next thirty years. This is a book about 5 egos, four of them justices, and one President, and the interplay between them during 3 decades. The first part of the book is devoted to a fast sweeping biography of 4 associate justices all of whom were appointed by the patrician Franklin Roosevelt.

The Players in this book:

Felix Frankfurter

Brilliant beyond anyone's understanding, he was the product of a poor family living in the slums of New York. He went to the City College of New York, and although it is not mentioned in the book, City College at that time was considered better than Harvard because the Ivy League was limiting Jewish enrollment intentionally. This allowed City College at one point to have more Nobel Prize winners than Harvard.

After graduation, Frankfurter put together some money and went on to Harvard Law where he excelled. Ultimately he developed mentors like Henry Stimson, an absolutely legendary power broker in Washington who served several Presidents including FDR as Secretary of War. Frankfurter is without question one of the intellectually most gifted people to ever serve on the Court.

Robert Jackson

Jackson was born dirt poor, so poor in fact, he could not afford an undergraduate education, and so he apprenticed to be a lawyer with a Jamestown New York law office. While working, he decided to pursue a year of formal education at the Albany New York Law School. He was folksy, clever, with a fabulous speaking delivery, exercised common sense and made a fortune before risking it all on a bank during FDR's first days in office.

Hugo Black

Black did a 2 year program at the University Of Alabama School Of Law. He was self-guided, extremely well read and understood that in the 1920's, the power was with the Ku Klux Klan, and so he joined in 1923. It helped him with his rise to power in Alabama and then he abruptly left the organization. It haunted him the rest of his life. He joined the Supreme Court in 1937, and became one of the most outspoken proponents of freedom, and free speech during the century.

William O. Douglas

Raised on the West Coast in Washington, he became a Yale Law School professor in his 20's. Accepted at Harvard Law, he went to Columbia Law instead. This man also knew how to be mentored. He came under the guidance of Robert Maynard Hutchins who graduated Yale Law in 1925 and immediately became a professor of law. Two years later Hutchins becomes dean of the school at 28 years of age. He then brings Douglas to Yale to be right in the center of things. Douglas would then be mentored by Joe Kennedy, JFK's father. Joe Kennedy would introduce Douglas to FDR, and thus a rocket ship ascent began for the future associate justice.

You need to understand who these players were to determine if you want to read this book. What the author clearly demonstrates is how these four individuals who on and off for thirty years would be friends and enemies would go on to reshape our modern interpretation of the Constitution, and the laws under which we live. Every major law and judicial event of the 20th century came through their hands for interpretation and lawfulness.

Their joint influence is not exceeded by anyone including Presidents. Just look at a short list of some of the seminal events they were involved in:

* The concept of Judicial Restraint

* Clear and Present Danger Case

* Dennis v. United States - The right or non-right to advocate the overthrow of the United States

* Judgment at Nuremburg - The right of the world to judge the implementers of Hitler's final solution. Associate Justice Robert Jackson presided.

* Brown v. Board of Education - Outlawing the separate but equal doctrine created by the Plessy v. Ferguson decision. Justice Jackson went through four different drafts of this new interpretation. While very ill at the time, Justice Jackson found it excruciatingly difficult to render a unanimous opinion. He went directly to the Court from a hospital bed to render support for the earthshaking decision the Court published.

* The Rosenberg Case

What you will gain from reading this book:

You will understand our country, and more importantly the true genius of the founding fathers in creating an independent Supreme Court. You will be awed by the intellectual genius of some of America's greatest minds dedicated to an interpretation of our laws. Even when you disagree with them, you will be struck by the quality of their thinking.

This is not about liberal versus conservative, which is what we see today. I have known many of the great liberals as well as the conservatives on the Court, and I am impressed by both types. My own personal demand on sitting justices is that they are people of absolute integrity, and extraordinary intellects, and for the most part we have been blessed by both from the right and the left.

Author Noah Feldman has given us a rare glimpse into some of the most interesting personalities of the 20th century. You will also get to know Tommy the Cork Corcoran, one of the most powerful legal players in the 20th century. You will meet Abe Fortas, perhaps the most influential associate justice of the 20 century. This is a man who sat in Lyndon Johnson's cabinet meetings, not at the table, but back several feet by the window. He would take it all in, and then when alone with the President dissect the whole meeting, and tell President Johnson what to do. I doubt LBJ could have remained in office through 1968 without the solid advice rendered by Abe Fortas.

In summary, if you have any interest in the Supreme Court at all, or how government works, this book should be at the top of your list. I simply could not put it down, and thank you for reading this review.

Richard C. Stoyeck
21 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
appropriate for a general audience as a broad introduction to constitutional doctrine 15 novembre 2010
Par Bookreporter - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Noah Feldman's SCORPIONS is an important work of popular history. This group biography recounts the lives of four Supreme Court justices whose imprint on American history and law is substantial. Justices Felix Frankfurter, William O. Douglas, Hugo Black and Robert Jackson were giants of the law whose contribution to modern constitutional jurisprudence cannot be ignored. Each brought a unique and diverse background to the High Court and shared only one trait when selected by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve: none had any prior judicial experience. The contemporary United States Supreme Court is noteworthy because eight of the nine justices arrived after years of experience as judges on the various federal appellate courts. Only President Obama's most recent appointment, Elena Kagan, lacked federal judicial experience. SCORPIONS reminds readers that this experience is no indication of judicial greatness and indeed may be a predictor of something far worse: judicial mediocrity.

Three of the four men covered by Professor Feldman have been the subject of numerous biographies and, in the case of Douglas, a two-volume autobiography. Jackson, a small-town New York lawyer who rose to the Supreme Court and took a leave of absence to lead the Nuremberg prosecutions, has yet to be the focus of an exhaustive judicial biography. Feldman's coverage of his life, political rise and relationship with FDR is informative and rewarding. But SCORPIONS is only a general discussion of the four justices. This is not intended to be a criticism of the book, because its importance comes from what it tells readers about the interaction between the men and how their battles influenced the direction of the Supreme Court during an important era.

SCORPIONS covers the Supreme Court as shaped by FDR, who, during his four terms as President, transformed the Court and its jurisprudence. The nominees came from different backgrounds but were viewed as New Deal loyalists. In the beginning of his presidency, the Supreme Court declared many pieces of New Deal legislation unconstitutional. His first reaction was to attempt to pack the Court by changing the manner and procedure for filling vacancies. The "court-packing" plan was unsuccessful, but eventually retirement, death and three terms in office gave him the opportunity to remake the Court.

Before FDR could transform the Supreme Court from a judicial body protecting business to a Court that favored the protection of individual liberties, he would need to appoint justices who he believed shared his view of the Constitution. All four of the men chronicled in SCORPIONS were New Deal liberals. Black was a populist senator from Alabama and Frankfurter a law professor from Harvard. Both Douglas and Jackson served in the FDR administration and had ambition beyond justice: Douglas hoped to be President and Jackson Chief Justice. The potential nomination of Jackson as Chief Justice was a great source of friction among the four men, and eventually led to a rare occasion when a private dispute among justices was played out in a public airing of Court dirty laundry.

SCORPIONS is fairly straightforward in its treatment of the Court and its members. Following biographical coverage of the careers of Frankfurter, Black, Douglas and Jackson, Feldman discusses the cases that divided and united them. The men differed in their view of many critical cases of the era because they differed in their constitutional jurisprudence. While Frankfurter and Jackson were proponents of judicial restraint, Douglas and Black espoused a more active and aggressive judicial view. The book is appropriate for a general audience as a broad introduction to constitutional doctrine; though not for constitutional scholars, it's valuable history nonetheless.

SCORPIONS will also remind many of an era when Supreme Court justices brought a far wider life experience to their positions than do present members. Many believe that the lack of real-world experience tilts the Court against the common man. Only time will tell if we can achieve that goal in the current political marketplace.

--- Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman
29 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Court Battles 7 novembre 2010
Par C. Hutton - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
The author has cherry-picked the four most interesting Supreme Court justices from the eight men that President Rossevelt appointed to the high bench. This legal account really follows the tenure of Robert Jackson (1941-1954) as he interacts with fellow justices Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurther, and Wiliam Douglas. It is an arbitrary time period chosen by the author, but it is climaxed by the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision and Justice Jackson's death. The narrative alternates between the constitutional theories of each of the justice's and between their brilliant but competitive minds. The book combines dueling legal arguments, New Deal politics and clashing personalities into an absorbing narrative of the World War Two era and beyond.
13 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Conflict on the FDR Supreme Court 14 novembre 2010
Par Ronald H. Clark - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
There are a number of books and articles that discuss conflict between Supreme Court Justices, including the four Justices at the center of this fine study: Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965); Robert Jackson (1892-1954); Hugo Black (1886-1971); and William O. Douglas (1898-1975). Collectively, these Justices served between 1939 and 1975. However this book is unique in several ways that advance our understanding of the Court during this period. At about 500 pages, the author is able to paint a more complete picture of the Justices and their Court interaction than shorter studies. Each Justice is introduced, in terms both of his pre-Court career and his relationship with FDR. So by the time the author discusses their Court interaction, the reader has a particularly good feel for each Justice as an individual. Unlike most other studies, the author devotes probably most attention to Robert Jackson, an almost forgotten figure today who is soon to be the subject of a major biography by Professor John Q. Barrett. This focus on Jackson, former Attorney General, whom Justice Brandeis considered the finest Solicitor General he had seen, who later served as lead American prosecutor at Nuremberg, and who wrote some of the finest opinions in the Court's history, enhances the study enormously.

The book also sheds light on the other three Justices as well. The much criticized Frankfurter, who went from being the leading Court liberal to outright conservative, is assessed in ways that allow the reader to understand why the shift to an activist Court left Frankfurter behind, rather than a shift in his own judicial restrainist philosophy. A perceptive discussion of Black and the development of his incorporation and textual philosophy of interpretation helps fill out an understanding of this key Justice. Equally important as his revival of Jackson is the author's rehabilitative portrait of Douglas, driven by political ambitions until 1948, when he emerges as a "great justice" and theoretician of new constitutional rights (such as privacy) and opponent of the Vietnam war. As a corrective to the "Wild Bill" approach to Douglas, the author's analysis is most welcome. We are reminded of why Douglas was so vital a Justice during his tenure in dealing with issues such as the flag salute cases, Japanese relocation, the HCUA, and the Rosenbergs.

On top of all this, the book is a solid analysis of some of the leading cases in our constitutional history during this period. The discussions of "Brown," the Steel Seizure and "Dennis" cases are particularly perceptive. Another focus is the intellectual approach to judging each man employed. Some issues of judicial philosophy are raised, for example Jackson's pragmatic approach (promoting the effective functioning of the government) and Alexander Bickel's "counter-majoritarian difficulty." The bizarre Black-Jackson feud that erupts while Jackson is at Nuremberg is skillfully dissected and explained. There is much more of marked value in the book, supported by 46 pages of helpful endnotes, a 12 page bibliography, and some useful photographs. While one can quibble with the author's perhaps excessive opinions of Douglas and Jackson, and some of his other judgments, in the process one can learn a tremendous amount about these four unique individuals, the Court they made, and our constitutional history.
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