A sweeping insider look at the life of William Brennan, champion of free speech and widely considered the most influential Supreme Court justice of the twentieth century
Before his death, William Brennan granted Stephen Wermiel access to volumes of personal and court materials that are sealed to the public until 2017. These are what Jeffrey Toobin has called “a coveted set of documents” that includes Brennan’s case histories—in which he recorded strategies behind all the major battles of the past half century, including Roe v. Wade, affirmative action, the death penalty, obscenity law, and the constitutional right to privacy—as well as more personal documents that reveal some of Brennan's curious contradictions, like his refusal to hire female clerks even as he wrote groundbreaking women’s rights decisions; his complex stance as a justice and a Catholic; and details on Brennan’s unprecedented working relationship with Chief Justice Earl Warren. Wermiel distills decades of valuable information into a seamless, riveting portrait of the man behind the Court's most liberal era.
Congressional Quarterly reporter Stern and Wermiel, who teaches constitutional law at American University, have produced what will likely be the definitive biography of Supreme Court Justice William Brennan (1906 1997), arguably the most influential liberal justice in history. During 34 years on the court, he was instrumental in forming alliances with other justices resulting in majority opinions in such seminal cases as Roe v. Wade and Baker v. Carr (the one man one vote case that changed America's political landscape). The book's strength is Wermiel's access to Brennan's private case notes (which are closed to the public until 2017) and dozens of interviews with Brennan himself. The case notes provide a detailed and fascinating account of how the Supreme Court functioned during Brennan's long tenure (from 1956 to 1990) that easily outshines recent high-profile books purporting to break the Court's seal of secrecy. Nowhere will readers find a better explanation of how the mix of personality and political philosophy drove, and presumably still drives, the Court. Both legal scholars and general readers will be delighted with this well-written, superbly documented biography, which may make liberals nostalgic for Brennan's court. 16 pages of b&w photos.
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An excellent biography with much information not only on Justice Brennan's enormous contributions to Constitutional Law but also his personality and how he was able to achieve all that he did during his tenure on the Supreme Court.