Scalia: A Court of One

Bruce Allen Murphy, Author
Bruce Allen Murphy. Simon & Schuster, $35 (656p) ISBN 978-0-7432-9649-6
Open Ebook - 592 pages - 978-1-4516-1146-5
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Justice Antonin Scalia is fighting a losing battle to put his conservative stamp on the Supreme Court, according to this penetrating biography by historian Murphy (Wild Bill). The book reveals a smart, ebullient, gleefully argumentative man with an intellect and militancy honed by Jesuit educators. Scalia's "originalist" juridical philosophy is based on close, sometimes tortured, readings of the Constitution. The author argues that Scalia's uncompromising abrasiveness has alienated even court conservatives—especially his nemesis, the erratic, sentimental Justice Anthony Kennedy. Murphy also suggests that rather than providing a neutral, consistent rule book for interpreting the Constitution, Scalia's originalism is a morass of biased "law-office history" that amounts to "just another tool to reach whatever ideological result that a judge preferred." He probes Scalia's evolving ideas through detailed recaps of his judicial opinions on controversial issues from abortion and gun control to gay marriage, along with accounts of behind-the-scenes court politicking and extensive (sometimes rambling) quotations from the justice's speeches; Scalia's entertainingly tactless public utterances are also sampled. Murphy's thoughtful analysis of Scalia's intellectual journey shows just how difficult it is to straitjacket the Constitution within a narrow interpretation. Photos. (June)
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