The Most Dangerous Branch: Inside the Court’s Assault on the Constitution

David A. Kaplan. Crown, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5247-5990-2
Kaplan, the former legal affairs editor of Newsweek and a commentator who has appeared on both MSNBC and Fox News, turns constitutional scholar Alex Bickel’s classic 1962 book on the Supreme Court, The Least Dangerous Branch, on its head, persuasively arguing that the court has lost its bearings. Kaplan provides context for his argument with engaging, gossipy, and often highly critical sketches of each of the current justices and their judicial philosophies. His main focus is what he sees as the erosion of the court’s legitimacy, which he traces to Roe v. Wade, the abortion rights case vilified by conservatives and viewed with reverence by liberals. To Kaplan, Roe signified the Court’s willingness to abandon coherent constitutional theory in favor of ideological views in matters “best left for the democratically accountable branches.” He then takes readers through a scathing tour of recent Supreme Court decisions that he believes share Roe’s deficiencies—among them cases on the Second Amendment, the 2000 presidential election, the Voting Rights Act, and campaign finance—whose reasoning he variously describes as “laughable,” “fanciful,” “absurd,” and, most damningly, at odds with democracy. Kaplan’s thesis doesn’t favor either liberal or conservative views, and though readers may not agree with all of Kaplan’s conclusions, they will find this a passionately argued and credible indictment of the court. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/10/2018
Release date: 10/02/2018
Genre: Nonfiction

Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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