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The Supreme Court

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  562 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
This new edition of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s classic book offers a lively and accessible history of the Supreme Court. His engaging writing illuminates both the high and low points in the Court's history, from Chief Justice Marshall’s dominance of the Court during the early nineteenth century through the landmark decisions of the Warren Court. Citing cases such ...more
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published February 5th 2002 by Vintage (first published September 1st 1987)
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Jamie Collins
Rehnquist’s history is intended to give “the interested, informed layman … a better understanding of the role of the Supreme Court in American government”. I found this very accessible; it's perhaps slightly legally dense in the middle, but the early historical chapters and the later sections on the practical operation of the court were engaging. This was first published in 1986, then updated in 2001 with editorial assistance from his daughter, whose aim was, he says, “to make me sound less like ...more
Cherif Jazra
Sep 29, 2016 Cherif Jazra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Former Chief Justice delivers a highly skilled treatment of the history of the Supreme Court, using a smooth writing style, and a great sense of a good story. This book may have been designed as a textbook for an entry class on the institution as it delves into much details, with both a human and a historical outlook. Rehnquist is able to weave in 3 different perspectives on the court: the human perspective focuses on the justices and their character, an institutional perspective focuses on the ...more
Jan 28, 2008 Aaron rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jerry and Annette
This was an enthralling book written by the late Chief Justice of the United States, William H. Rehnquist. First I must state he is a first rate author with an exceptional ability to make something interesting that would otherwise be rather boring. There are sections where he talks about the Justices and their appointments where another author may have put a list, but the description of each with clarity of their character allows those parts to become more engaging. How the Supreme Court has sha ...more
ZMARTIN123 Martin
Dec 02, 2013 ZMARTIN123 Martin rated it liked it
Zach Martin
William H. Rehnquist: The Supreme Court
Digging deep into the history of the judicial branch of the U.S. government, Rehnquist, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, goes into detail of different cases that the Supreme Court has reviewed since the creation of the government. Along with these details of cases, Rehnquist also covers the different Chief Justices that have resided over the history of the Supreme Court, and the controversial cases that they have made decisions on. F
Jul 31, 2012 Mauricio rated it it was amazing
I have to give this book by William Rehnquist 5 stars in spite of the fact that I do not agree with his reasoning on many of the important cases decided during his time as SCOTUS Associate Justice (1972-1986) and later as Chief Justice of the United States (1986-2005). His personal doctrine was based on announcing and promulgating "New Federalism" and emphasizing an outmoded view of the 10th Amendment. In my opinion both of these doctrines should be considered superseded by the 14th Amendment -b ...more
Sep 05, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it
After a visit to the US Supreme Court and sitting in the courtroom I had the desire to find a book written by one of the Justices about the court and its history. I found that in former Chief Justice Rehnquist's book. While certainly infused with his perspective of pivotal cases, mistakes, triumphs, and history of the high court, I found most interesting his personal stories of being a law clerk.

As expected, there was some dry reading that required some time to digest appropriately but I think t
Tyler Storm
Jun 12, 2015 Tyler Storm rated it it was amazing
Pretty good introduction to the US Supreme Court written by former Chief and Associate Justice William Rehnquist. There are many Supreme Court books out there, but I would say for the newbie, this should be the first book you should read regarding the Supreme Court. I tried reading "Dear Brethren" by Bob Woodward but it's not necessarily for the newbie. Should have read this book first, then Gideon's Trumpet, and lastly Dear Brethren.

So, the structure of this book is this: General introduction t
Lori Gum
Nov 26, 2012 Lori Gum rated it liked it
I'll just say view of the decisions of The Roberts Court...this book nears levels of hilarity when you read what Rehnquist considers "judicial activism". I finished this last Wednesday, the day that the Court heard oral arguments in the Shelby v. Holder case regarding Section 5 of The 1965 Voting Rights Act...with Roberts and Scalia's outright hostility to the respondents and defenders of the Act, most notably exemplified by Justice Scalia's contention the protection of voting rights f ...more
Tom Stamper
Nov 21, 2014 Tom Stamper rated it really liked it
As an introduction to the history of the Supreme Court, Justice Rehnquist's book was just what I was looking for. Not only does he give a good explanation of the personalities and issues through the ages, he also explains the experience of being a clerk on the court.
Rehnquist begins by telling the story of how he came to be a clerk for Justice Jackson in the early 1950s. He then goes back and explains the origins of the court in the 19th century. From 1800 until the Civil War, only two men were
Jan 06, 2015 HBalikov rated it liked it
The Supreme Court that we know was not what was intended by our Founding Fathers. As a member of that Court, William Rehnquist has a great deal of respect for the institution. However, he understands that this Court could have easily been simply the court of last resort for contract dispute rather than one of three equal branches of our government.

Rehnquist is at his best when he is delving into the early years of the Court; particularly the first 50 years of its existence. He gives much of the
Noel Adams
May 29, 2015 Noel Adams rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book. A mixture of pivotal cases decided by the Court, biographies of key justices, and procedures for choosing and rendering decisions, this book was both educational and interesting. My respect for the Supreme Court has increased tenfold, and I find that I am less willing to fling accusations of 'legislating from the bench.' That merely means, after all, that someone read the Constitution differently than I. With each of the nine justices having a staff of one or two secretaries and f ...more
Mar 20, 2008 Sara rated it it was ok
Shelves: required-reading
I honestly thought it would be interesting.
And it was for the first 40 pages.
But then every time I read 20 pages, I had to take a nap.
It's a great informational book, but don't read it if you don't have to.
Dec 26, 2011 Lance rated it really liked it
With some really important cases coming before the Supreme Court within the next few months, I thought it would be a good idea to learn a bit more about the history of the Supreme Court and the way that it operates. The author here does not disappoint. He writes not only for the layman unacquainted with the nuances of practicing the law but also for the reader interested in engaging history. And the Supreme Court is full of history.

Rehnquist runs through the history of the Supreme Court and the
Dec 03, 2013 Brent_bingham rated it really liked it
The Supreme Court is written by 16th chief justice William H. Rehnquist. He wrote the book to summarize key points in the court’s history, and goes into great detail. Rehnquist starts off with an introduction showing how he has progressed in the law business from being a law clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson to Chief Justice. Rehnquist then starts with the case Marbury vs. Madison, which established the rule that the Supreme Court can rule a law unconstitutional, and therefore put it out of ac ...more
Roger Williams
Dec 28, 2016 Roger Williams rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed the hallmark cases that were described in detail and with a legalistic tilt of a true insider or sage. I also enjoyed the last 3 chapters that detailed what makes the lawyers style resonate with the court, that the court if of and for the people, and lives even now.
Anup Sinha
Jan 11, 2014 Anup Sinha rated it it was ok
The book itself was okay overall. I did enjoy the insight into what happens at the highest court, but I had a hard time with Judge Rehnquist's writing style. I was also hoping he'd give more of a history lesson on controversial issues like the Scopes trial and the Civil Rights movement when Earl Warren enacted laws that angered the president who appointed him (Eisenhower). I also found the history incomplete without any documentation of the Trail of Tears and how President Andrew Jackson complet ...more
Luke Duncan
Jan 05, 2015 Luke Duncan rated it really liked it
I've had this book in my queue for a while, but especially after the recent gay marriage case it found its way into my vacation reading pile.

This book has fits and starts. Some chapters drag on, with a large cast of characters each given only a paragraph of introduction. But, given the scope of the book it's to be expected. Despite this, I still really enjoyed it. I got a perspective I lacked and a history I was missing. I especially liked the middle chapters on the Steal Seizure case and the cl
Jul 20, 2011 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, law
In preparation for an teacher institute on the Supreme Court this summer I read Rehnquist's book. It is a good overview of the court - its history, structure, organization, and process. He commits several chapters to exploring how the Court decides to hear a case, the nature of written briefs and oral arguments, and how a case is decided and reported. He covers the history of the various Courts, defined by their Chief Justices, and the major justices, stopping at the Warren Court, before Renquis ...more
Feb 12, 2009 Nathan rated it really liked it
While it is obvious that William Rehnquist is far from a gifted story-teller, he is able to captivate his audience through his knowledge of Supreme Court history woven with his unique perspective as a Justice himself. The book gives no pretense about being a detailed case history, but rather serves as a chronological look at the make-up of the various Supereme Courts thourghout the years - and thereby lends insight to why certain crucial decisions were reached.
I found this work to be extremely i
This book is worth reading for the final three chapters that discuss how cases are brought before the Court, argued, and decided. While there are a handful of interesting takes on notable SCOTUS cases (including and in particular the Steel Seizure Case), the majority of this book offers little more than a dry history through the Warren Court.

Disappointingly, there were few easily-parsed insights into Rehnquist's judicial philosophy (with rare exceptions). In addition, I found Rehnquist's writin
May 22, 2008 Rex rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Chief Justice Rehnquist presents a survey of the Supreme Court that is an interesting mix of history, observation, and anecdote. Several cases are looked at in detail: Marbury vs. Madison, Dred Scott, and interestingly, the Steel Seizure case. The history abruptly ends around the time he joined the court. And predictably, he steers clear of virtually any contemporary controversial topic. The most interesting parts of the book are the final chapters detailing the day-to-day functioning of the Cou ...more
Eric Atkisson
Jun 11, 2013 Eric Atkisson rated it liked it
My only two mild criticisms of this otherwise excellent book are that some of the later chapters seem kind of randomly added (and perhaps they were, since I read a newer edition published in 2001), and that Chief Justice Rehnquist omitted any detailed reflections about his own selection and appointment to the Supreme Court, which seemed odd given the autobiographical flavor of the beginning chapters. Otherwise, it's an eminently worthwhile read for anyone interested in higlights of the Supreme C ...more
Apr 30, 2011 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been interested in the Supreme Court and how it really works for some time and when I found this book, I was very hopeful that my curiosity would be satisfied. It was. Chief Justice Rehnquist is a very learned justice, but the book was written for someone like me that is not. He explained things in very understandable terms and included enough background information about the political environment at the time to make the decisions of the court meaningful to me. I thought it was an excelle ...more
Mar 02, 2008 Patrick rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone in Social Studies UIL
Well it only took me 8 months to get through it... It was not a bad book, actually. Rhenquist is (obviously) an expert on this subject. When I actually had time to sit down and read it, I learned a lot and actually enjoyed it. Rhenquist's personal memories of events as a law clerk and later a justice and chief justice on the court provided interesting reading. The biggest problem with the book: the subject :)
Mar 31, 2009 Bethany rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this quick overview of the Supreme Court in three days and found it to be an interesting and informative quick overview of the Court's history and function. I especially enjoyed Rehnquist's personal observations about his time first as a law clerk and then of course as an Associate and later Chief Justice. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the Court; it's a non-technical inside view of the institution.
David Niose
Dec 23, 2012 David Niose rated it really liked it
I'm no fan of Rehnquist, but I picked up this book on a whim at an Asheville bookstore while traveling. I assumed it would have a strong conservative slant and that I would be shaking my head in disagreement as I read. I was pleasantly surprised, however, that it was more or less an objective history of the court, written well, and a really enjoyable read. Not very dense at all, just easy reading that I found entertaining and sufficiently informative.
Bill Mcconnell
Nov 24, 2013 Bill Mcconnell rated it liked it
A good history of the Supreme Court's influence on the development of U.S. jurisprudence and the court's influence on American society. Rehnquist's prose is a little dense when he's writing about the technicalities of cases but very accessible when talking about their importance from a historical or societal perspective.
The author tried to cram in too much. The book has a great in-house perspective, though.

Rehnquist obviously has prejudices and certainly could have cut a lot or expanded the book to three times its size.

That said, it is a decent intro to the history of the Supreme Court. I will mostly use it has a reference rather than suggest anyone read it for leisure.
So far I am enjoying the writing and learning more about the Court. There are some things I already am familiar with, but it is a good history and explanation of the Court.

This is a wonderful distillation of the history of the Court, the importance of it in our system, and the way that it works.
Sep 21, 2011 Patrick rated it liked it
I enjoy Rehnquist's writing - it is clear, informative, and straightforward (seems to give you mostly facts, and keeps opinions and commentary to himself when writing about history). The only downside is it can be a bit dull, especially if you aren't interested in the subject. Keep that in mind before diving into this one.
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William Hubbs Rehnquist was an American lawyer, jurist, and a political figure who served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and later as the Chief Justice of the United States. Considered a conservative, Rehnquist favored a federalism under which the states meaningfully exercised governmental power. Under this view of federalism, the Supreme Court of the United Stat ...more
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“All of these factors are subsumed to a greater or lesser extent by observing that the Supreme Court is an institution far more dominated by centrifugal forces, pushing toward individuality and independence, than it is by centripetal forces pulling for hierarchical ordering and institutional unity. The well-known checks and balances provided by the framers of the Constitution have supplied the necessary centrifugal force to make the Court independent of Congress and the president. The” 0 likes
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