Cover image for First among equals : the Supreme Court in American life
First among equals : the Supreme Court in American life
Starr, Kenneth, 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxviii, 320 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


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KF8748 .S815 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Today's United States Supreme Court consists of nine intriguingly varied justices and one overwhelming contradiction: Compared to its revolutionary predecessor, the Rehnquist Court appears deceptively passive, yet it stands as dramatically ready to defy convention as the Warren Court of the 1950s and 60s. Now Kenneth W. Starr-who served as clerk for one chief justice, argued twenty-five cases as solicitor general before the Supreme Court, and is widely regarded as one of the nation's most distinguished practitioners of constitutional law-offers us an incisive and unprecedented look at the paradoxes, the power, and the people of the highest court in the land. In FIRST AMONG EQUALS Ken Starr traces the evolution of the Supreme Court from its beginnings, examines major Court decisions of the past three decades, and uncovers the sometimes surprising continuity between the precedent-shattering Warren Court and its successors under Burger and Rehnquist. He shows us, as no other author ever has, the very human justices who shape our law, from Sandra Day O'Connor, the Court's most pivotal-and perhaps most powerful-player, to Clarence Thomas, its most original thinker. And he explores the present Court's evolution into a lawyerly tribunal dedicated to balance and consensus on the one hand, and zealous debate on hotly contested issues of social policy on the other. * On race, the Court overturned affirmative action and held firm to an undeviating color-blind standard. * On executive privilege, the Court rebuffed three presidents, both Republican and Democrat, who fought to increase their power at the expense of rival branches of government. * On the 2000 presidential election, the Court prevented what it deemed a runaway Florida court from riding roughshod over state law-illustrating how in our system of government, the Supreme Court is truly the first among equals. Compelling and supremely readable, FIRST AMONG EQUALS sheds new light on the most frequently misunderstood legal pillar of American life.

Author Notes

Kenneth W. Starr has served as solicitor general of the United States, Supreme Court clerk for Chief Justice Warren Burger, independent counsel, and United States circuit court judge. He is currently a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, in their Washington, D.C., office. He is also an adjunct professor at NYU and a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University Law School.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The author's name--and the fact that it is so controversial--will generate lots of buzz about this analysis of the inner workings of the Supreme Court.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Starr steps decisively away from his celebrated (or infamous, depending on your politics) role in the Clinton imbroglio and focuses here on the U.S. Supreme Court over the last 30 years. To this analysis Starr brings experience as a law clerk to Chief Justice Burger, federal appellate judge, U.S. solicitor general and professor of constitutional law. The author selects some 14 areas of law for examination, ranging from freedom of speech to separation of church and state, from abortion to affirmative action. For each area, Starr profiles several major decisions of the Rehnquist Court. For the author, the court under Rehnquist is centrist, lawyerly and analytical, a welcome departure from the activism and judicial policymaking of the court under Earl Warren. One principal focus of the book is on the leadership role played by individual justices, especially Justices O'Connor and Breyer, in devising rationales that command majority agreement among their peers. Starr declares that Justice Thomas is the Rehnquist court's most original and creative thinker, but does not explain the basis for this judgment. The book is written in a clear, nontechnical style accessible to a wide readership, not just court watchers and constitutional scholars. This study is slated to be a main selection of the Conservative Book Club, and this is entirely appropriate. Starr delivers attacks on Miranda and Roe v. Wade and a defense of the court's decision in Bush v. Gore. Readers-especially those on the right-interested in the law's evolution will find in this a conservative synthesis of the constitutional thinking of today's Supreme Court. (Oct. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Having taken on a President, the tenacious Starr doesn't hesitate to take on the Supreme Court. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Introductionp. xvii
Part 1 The Supreme Court Then and Nowp. 1
Chapter 1 Originsp. 3
Chapter 2 The Justicesp. 13
Part 2 The Rights of "We the People"p. 45
Chapter 3 Shouting Fire in Crowded Theaters: The Freedom of Speechp. 47
Chapter 4 Hard Money and Soft: The First Amendment and Politicsp. 70
Chapter 5 Religion in the Public Squarep. 89
Chapter 6 Parochial Schools and Public Money: The Neutrality Principlep. 105
Chapter 7 The Constitutional "Right" of Privacy: Abortion and Beyondp. 120
Chapter 8 Counting by Race I: The Affirmative Action Controversyp. 143
Chapter 9 Counting by Race II: Gerrymandering and Votingp. 161
Chapter 10 The Criminal Justice Revolution: Excluding Evidence from Criminal Trialsp. 176
Chapter 11 "You Have the Right to ...": Miranda and the Fifth Amendmentp. 191
Part 12 The Powers and Structure of American Governmentp. 209
Chapter 12 The Power to Make Law: The Statutory Conversation between Court and Congressp. 211
Chapter 13 The Rehnquist Court and the Federal Republicp. 228
Chapter 14 Presidents: The Court and the Executive Branchp. 248
Chapter 15 Bush v. Gorep. 264
Acknowledgmentsp. 281
The Constitution of the United Statesp. 283
Indexp. 312