Friday, March 31, 2017

Kalman's "Long Reach of the Sixties"

Although it won't ship until April 5, you can now pre-order what a Kirkus reviewer calls "an accessible, lucid brief on how our Supreme Court appointment system became the mess that it is.”  It's The Long Reach of the Sixties: LBJ, Nixon, and the Making of the Contemporary Supreme Court (Oxford University Press), by Laura Kalman, Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a past president of the American Society for Legal History:
The Warren Court of the 1950s and 1960s was the most liberal in American history. Yet within a few short years, new appointments redirected the Court in a more conservative direction, a trend that continued for decades. However, even after Warren retired and the makeup of the court changed, his Court cast a shadow that extends to our own era.

In The Long Reach of the Sixties, Laura Kalman focuses on the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Presidents Johnson and Nixon attempted to dominate the Court and alter its course. Using newly released--and consistently entertaining--recordings of Lyndon Johnson's and Richard Nixon's telephone conversations, she roots their efforts to mold the Court in their desire to protect their Presidencies. The fierce ideological battles--between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches--that ensued transformed the meaning of the Warren Court in American memory. Despite the fact that the Court's decisions generally reflected public opinion, the surrounding debate calcified the image of the Warren Court as activist and liberal. Abe Fortas's embarrassing fall and Nixon's campaign against liberal justices helped make the term "activist Warren Court" totemic for liberals and conservatives alike.

The fear of a liberal court has changed the appointment process forever, Kalman argues. Drawing from sources in the Ford, Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton presidential libraries, as well as the justices' papers, she shows how the desire to avoid another Warren Court has politicized appointments by an order of magnitude. Among other things, presidents now almost never nominate politicians as Supreme Court justices (another response to Warren, who had been the governor of California). Sophisticated, lively, and attuned to the ironies of history, The Long Reach of the Sixties is essential reading for all students of the modern Court and U.S. political history.
That Kirkus reviewer writes, “Not all legal history is as readable as this, nor is it as crisply argued without turgid legalese.”  Those of us who heard Professor Kalman’s plenary address, drawn from the book and her extensive research in the archives and presidential recordings of LBJ and Richard Nixon, already knew that.  We can’t wait to read the book-length development of her argument that the crucial turning point in the recent history of U.S. Supreme Court nominations was not the Bork hearing but an earlier spate of judicial nominations in which combatants fought to preserve or discard the legacy of the Warren Court.  TOC after the jump


I: A New President Seeks Power: 1963-65
II: Musical Chairs, 1965-66
III: Bogeyman, 1966-1968
IV: "A Man's Reach Should [Not] Exceed His Grasp:" Summer and Fall, 1968
V: The Last Days of the Warren Court, 1969-70
VI: "Southern Discomfort," 1969-70
VII: The Lost Ball Game, Or How Not to Choose Two Justices, 1971