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The Roberts Court, seven years old, sits at the center of a constitutional maelstrom. Through four landmark decisions, Marcia Coyle, one of the most prestigious experts on the Supreme Court, reveals the fault lines in the conservative-dominated Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.
Seven minutes after President Obama put his signature to a landmark national health care insurance program, a lawyer in the office of Florida GOP attorney general Bill McCollum hit a computer key, sparking a legal challenge to the new law that would eventually reach the nation’s highest court. Health care is only the most visible and recent front in a battle over the meaning and scope of the U.S. Constitution. The battleground is the United States Supreme Court, and one of the most skilled, insightful, and trenchant of its observers takes us close up to watch it in action.
Marcia Coyle’s brilliant inside account of the High Court captures four landmark decisions—concerning health care, money in elections, guns at home, and race in schools. Coyle examines how those cases began—the personalities and conflicts that catapulted them onto the national scene—and how they ultimately exposed the great divides among the justices, such as the originalists versus the pragmatists on guns and the Second Amendment, and corporate speech versus human speech in the controversial Citizens United campaign case. Most dramatically, her analysis shows how dedicated conservative lawyers and groups are strategizing to find cases and crafting them to bring up the judicial road to the Supreme Court with an eye on a receptive conservative majority.
The Roberts Court offers a ringside seat at the struggle to lay down the law of the land.
Personalities and values as much as constitutional interpretations shove the Supreme Court rightward in this complex, nuanced history of recent decisions. National Law Journal correspondent Coyle focuses on four landmark rulings on Seattle and Louisville, Ky., school desegregation policies; a Washington, D.C., gun-control ordinance; the Citizens United campaign finance case; and Obamacare. She follows each case from its inception, usually as a vehicle handcrafted by right-wing lawyers to advance conservative causes, through oral arguments and the final issuance of opinions. Her narrative traces the court s ideological shift under Chief Justice John Roberts, as a new majority of doctrinaire conservatives (plus erratic conservative Anthony Kennedy) rides roughshod over precedent and legislation on issues from affirmative action to First Amendment rights and government regulation. But she also paints a fine-grained portrait, based on vivid reportage of court proceedings and copious interviews with participants and insiders, of the personal enmities that structure the court s deliberations and how litigants exploit them; we see jurists straining for meticulous legal formulas to clothe what are essentially gut convictions. (The debates between originalists and pragmatists over the Second Amendment are especially confused.) Coyle s canny account of the court shows how even the highest reaches of constitutional reasoning are shadowed by dogma and bias. 16-page b&w photo insert.