Sunday, October 17, 2010

FDR Court Appointees, Justice Brennan, and the Pledge of Allegiance in the book pages

Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices by Noah Feldman
is reviewed by Eric Posner for The New Republic.  The book focuses on FDR Court appointees Felix Frankfurter, Hugo Black, Robert Jackson, and William Douglas.  For Posner, "inconsistencies in [Felman's] discussion" of these justices
betray a confusion about the nature of judicial greatness. In some places Feldman criticizes the justices for failing to advance liberal political goals (great=liberal); in other places he criticizes them for making up the law to suit their political preferences (great=impartial). Feldman is hardly alone in this respect: this is a central failing of constitutional law scholarship. All that is clear is that the justices’ disagreements shaped constitutional debate for decades (thanks in part to a cadre of worshipful judicial clerks who later became professors). Whether for good or for ill, is hard to say. 

David J. Garrow reviews JUSTICE BRENNAN:  Liberal Champion by Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel in the Washington Post.  Garrow concludes:  "Scrupulously honest and consistently fair-minded, "Justice Brennan" is a supremely impressive work that will long be prized as perhaps the best judicial biography ever written."

THE PLEDGE:  A History of the Pledge of Allegiance by Jeffrey Owen Jones and Peter Meyer is taken up by Beverly Gage in the New York Times.  She finds that
Jones and Meyer make a good case that Bellamy’s original pledge was more elegant and rhythmic than today’s clause-laden version. They are less effective in explaining how the former “Youth’s Companion Pledge of Allegiance” evolved from a vaguely progressive one-off promotional spot into a mandatory childhood rite of passage and a political weapon....As a result, the book reads more like an amateur hobbyist’s guide to pledge-related happenings than a fully realized history of American patriotism and national identity.