Much of what goes on behind closed doors at the U.S. Supreme Court is shrouded in mystery and the subject of much speculation with only the most inforMuch of what goes on behind closed doors at the U.S. Supreme Court is shrouded in mystery and the subject of much speculation with only the most informed outsiders perspective to offer an informed explanation. Some of this is due to the fiercely guarded access to the nature of conducting the Court's business as well as court personnel and the Justices working papers, some of which are held in secrecy until long after the Justice has passed. Where a current Justice is involved there is even less available material. Which makes it all the more impressive that Linda Hirshman was able to marshal considerable resources during the course of writing her book. She knew what to look for, where to find it, and used that research in writing a thorough and thoughtful analysis assembled into an artful and intimate story. Bravo!
The book outlines the early life and careers of Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and follows each of their paths to The Supreme Court. They had very different early careers - Justice O'Connor as a state legislator and Justice Ginsburg as an ACLU litigator - with each of them spending time in lower courts before their appointments to the high court. The author examines the pivotal moments in their early professional and personal lives, how their work, detractors, and supporters influenced their course, and how they came to develop the framework which serves as the foundation for their judicial decision making. Justice O'Connor is of course the first woman to reach the Supreme Court bench and she was the Lone Ranger for awhile before Justice Ginsburg joined her. Despite their differences in perspective and judicial orientation, and the fact they had little interaction with each other before they were joined on the court, they respected each other immensely and forged a special and unique relationship. The author did a superb job of describing the unique bond these two women formed and how it unfolded in their time on the court. None of this is described in a vacuum so there is plenty of discussion about their interaction with the other Justices particularly during court conferences. In the many cases where women's rights were at issue, the only thing missing from the book is a picture of what must have been the slack jawed look of astonishment directed at some of their brethren during some of their discussions. It is no stretch of the imagination to understand why Justice O'Connor described her early days on the court as "lonely" before the arrival of Justice Ginsburg, and the impetus behind some of Justice Ginsburgs blistering dissents. These trailblazers are no shrinking violets no matter how diplomatic, courtly, and academic they may appear.
This book stands in a class by itself as to the perspective it offers of the court as seen through the lens of the first two women to arrive at the Supreme Court. Case analysis can be pretty dry but used as a vehicle for demonstrating the development of these women's respective judicial careers kept the story line engaging. The bond these women formed shines through amid the unique place in history each of them now enjoys. This book will appeal to anyone interested in the The Supreme Court, the development of women's rights under the law, and the journey of these two courageous trailblazers. Rich and complex, this was a wonderful book.
I received an uncorrected advance copy of this book through Goodreads in a giveaway sponsored by Harper and in exchange I willingly agreed to read and review the book. Thanks for selecting me. ...more