Packing the Court: The Rise of Judicial Power and the Coming Crisis of the Supreme Court

James MacGregor Burns, Author . Penguin Press $27.95 (326p) ISBN 978-1-59420-219-3

Pulitzer-winning historian Burns gives a brisk, readable tour of the history of the appointment of Supreme Court justices since 1789. In this respect, the book is fresh and compelling. But Burns (Running Alone ) has another aim. Particularly aggrieved by the Rehnquist and Roberts courts, he argues that every president since Washington has sought to fill the Court with justices who think as he does; that judicial review is unconstitutional; that the unelected Court has never been “politically accountable to the American people”;and that a courageous president (like Barack Obama, he suggests) should simply announce that, like Andrew Jackson, he won't abide by Supreme Court rulings that invalidate laws enacted by Congress and signed by him. Known for the liberal flags he flies, Burns runs up the radical pennant here. There's no evidence that the American people are as aggrieved over the Court as Burns is. And the term “packing” should be reserved, as until now it has been, for extreme manipulative efforts like FDR's. This is a terrific little book—save for its politics run amok. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/27/2009
Release date: 06/01/2009
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