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Dissent and the Supreme Court: Its Role in the Court's History and the Nation's Constitutional Dialogue

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  203 ratings  ·  27 reviews
From the admired judicial authority, author of Louis D. Brandeis (“Remarkable”—Anthony Lewis, The New York Review of Books; “Monumental”—Alan M. Dershowitz, The New York Times Book Review), Division and Discord, and Supreme Decisions—Melvin Urofsky’s major new book looks at the role of dissent in the Supreme Court and the meaning of the Constitution through the greatest an ...more
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published October 13th 2015 by Pantheon (first published September 22nd 2015)
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Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
My ongoing education into the world of the United States Constitution took an interesting venture when I picked up Melvin Urofosky's book. I had been used to tomes that tackle key constitutional arguments, supported or decreed by the United States Supreme Court. However, Urofsky chose to differ in his approach and overall argument, adding depth and exploring a unique perspective. The general premise of the book, as can be clearly found in its title, is to explore dissent options from the Court a ...more
A few years ago I started reading the biographies of Supreme Court Justices. I found their stories and that of the Court fascinating. Since then I have been reading about the Supreme Court and want to know more about the law. I found this book absolutely captivating; but I am sure the readers with law degrees will already know the material and if one is not interested they might be bored.

Melvin Urofsky traced the history of dissents from the founding era to the present. The author attempts to de
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: positive reviews in GR
Urofsky has performed a critical public service in writing a book that is intended for the inquisitive layperson but demands attentive reading. That this book was so difficult points to a deficit in our public education system which emphacizes a “scorecard” approach to education rather than an inquiry into the “Why.” For example, we all know the Dredd Scott decision was awful. Urofsky points out how it was poor from a legal standpoint. He examines the very cogent arguments of two dissents. One w ...more
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Dissent and the Supreme Court offers readers an indepth take at the look at the power of the dissent in the Supreme Court over the course of United States history. Many of the cases covered in the book aren't ones that are uncommon to most people who were educated in the United States and potentially lived in the Southern United States. In any case, though we know the outcomes of many of the cases of the past, only those well versed in the language of United States law and justice probably knew ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wait! This isn't really a history of dissent in the Supreme Court. It turns out that dissent is not just a way for Supreme Court justices to disagree with the majority -- it's a way of sharpening arguments on both sides, a way of preserving minority arguments for use in future cases, and even a way of changing the court's thinking on a case entirely.

Melvin Urofsky's book Dissent and the Supreme Court examines the various roles that dissent has played and gives many examples that show how dissent
Kent Winward
Nov 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
My critique of the book is that it turned into a Constitutional Law class instead of an analysis on dissent. The digressions had to keep being brought back to the topic of dissent. That said, I wrote a column for our newspaper on dissent for Thanksgiving which really does outline why this is an important idea and an important book.

As the Thanksgiving holiday is coming to a close today, I thought I would throw in one last column about being thankful. I am thankful for disagreement and dissent. Ou
Apr 16, 2019 rated it liked it
It's good and has lots of great knowledge to impart, but there are moments where the writer assumes previous knowledge the reader may not have, saying, for instance, "everyone is aware of the circumstances in the case of...".

While this books is a very specific genre and is probably written for a specific group of readers (historians, legal scholars, etc.), I think little explanation of cases one assumes everyone to know about, would be helpful.

Urofsky is an incredibly talented writer though, and
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
The book can be a little dense at times since he uses Latin legal terms and he cites one case after another. Despite that, I was fascinated by the history of the court and the way that dissents along with the actual decisions reflect the American way of life.

Tough going but definitely worth the slog.
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
More like a 3.5.

Though I have read about it multiple times, the part where Marshall passes Blackmun a note saying "You was great" after the latter read his dissent in Bowers still gets to me. Yes, I am a huge dork.
Roger Smitter
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
The legal arena operatests best when dissent is given a full voice. Urofsky gives a book that highlights the dissents in Supreme Court decisions that have had a profound influence on how we interpret the law. The opening pages that tell us about the power of dissent are the best of the book. The rest of the book focuses on specifics of the dissents. Some of this book will be best used by historians and law school professors.
Jun 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was not a page-turner but surprisingly readable for essentially a history book. While there are some forward-looking predictions, based on prior eras of the Court, as to what might happen in the future, it apparently was written before the death of Justice Scalia. So really no one knows what might happen from here on out, even with Justice Gorsuch on the Court. Definitely recommended for law students or lawyers, or nerdy political types.
Jun 24, 2020 rated it liked it
The first 2/3rds of the book cover in a great history dissent in the Supreme Court. In the last third of the book he seems to go from historical overview into opinion and even politics. The coverage of Scalia is very one sided, at times asserting his dissents to be wrong and not sticking with his starting principle that the judges of the power of dissent aren’t those of the current era.
Guthrie C.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Want a deeper understanding of the US Supreme Court? This is your book! This book provides a mostly non-partisan historical overview of the court and its evolution using dissents as the lens to view its changing position on many matters. You learn about the big cases, the justices, their process and how this has all evolved with time. Fascinating read!
B. Roebuck
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'll admit if you're not a legal person this book is going to be a bit much for you. Some of the legal arguments are rather above some people's heads. Nonetheless, this is a fantastic read for those folks who love some of the great jurists' dissenting opinions.
Daniel Farabaugh
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book that effectively illustrates the complex and changing nature of the Supreme Court. It is a dense and technical book at times but the author is able to hold it together around very precise writing.
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Scholarly and thorough.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think this was meant for the layperson, but I don’t comprehend how a layperson can fully grasp the importance of the many dissents Urofsky discusses without having first studied in considerable detail the majority opinions and their respective historical importance in our nation’s constitutional jurisprudence.

For those with the requisite base knowledge (basically, anyone who’s taken a constitutional law class), this book is tremendously rewarding and a fantastic supplement to understanding th
Jul 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Urofsky here considers Supreme Court dissents -- somewhat broadly construed to include several concurrences -- that proved influential. He goes all the way back to the beginning, noting how in pre-Revolutionary English law, all judges tended to present separate opinions on every case. Only when John Marshall moved to give the Supreme Court more authority did there become an opinion "of the court," and at that point dissent was heavily discouraged. The book then traces the undulating pattern of m ...more
Ed Pederson
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
OK I love Political Science and study of American governments especially the US Supreme Court. This book and Melvin Urofsky fits the bill so very nicely. It is not just about dissents and how some of them become majority opinions and thoughts, but it is a time in history and relevance to the other political institutions that brings it alive.
I learned so much about Harlan 1 and Harlan 2 and especially Harlan 1's dissent in the Civil Rights cases of 1883 which led to the separate but equal though
Oct 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting look at the role of dissent on the Supreme Court. It surprised me how many dissenting opinions later became the majority opinion after significant time had passed. While I am aware of the well known cases whose decisions were reversed, there were so many other cases of which I was completely unaware. Dissent plays a crucial role in crafting the majority opinion, even if the majority appears to have dismissed the dissenting point of view. Before reading this book, I had ...more
Joshua James
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book explores the way separate opinions, most notably dissents, shape the Constitutional dialogue and have, in the past, proven prophetic. It focuses mainly on those dissents that would, with time, become the law of the land.

Starting with the Founding era and spanning the history of the court, Melvin Urofsky (the author of the book Louis D. Brandeis: A Life) discussed such topics as civil rights, substantive due process, privacy, the right of consenting adults to participate in intimate ac
Kaushik Iyer
Dec 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
Important, and fascinating exploration of constitutional dialogue over time.
This book surprised me. I thought it'd be a collection of dissent vignettes, quick and interesting. What you find instead is a fantastically researched exploration of how the Court has changed over the years. A study of how justices worked to husband and spend their credibility, and how the Court has evolved as an institution. All viewed through the framing device of the dissent.

A slow read, but one that's worth the time
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Goodness, very long and super well researched. More than a primer on Con Law...a through look at the past, present and future of the Supreme Court, emphasizing dissenting opinions. I enjoyed reading about how the Supremes find case facts to best fit their legal reasoning and how they broker deals within the court to build consensus.
Pat Carson
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This title gave me a good look at the Supreme Court and how it functions.-how the court's opinions and role has changed over time through the study of the dissents of the justices. I'd have students look over the sections on the Dred Scott decision and the development of free speech in the post World War II world.
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Engaging book that takes the reader through the history of the Supreme Court, focusing on dissents. Would recommend to anyone interested in learning about the Court, and understanding how the Court's opinions have evolved over time.
Jared A
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Took ENTIRELY too long for me to get through this. That being the case, I’m so glad I got to read it during a time of 2 justices being replaced.

Dissent is never appreciated enough.
Monte Price
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Brilliant and informative.
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Nov 26, 2017
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Oct 24, 2016
Dennis Kaufman
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Feb 11, 2018
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MELVIN I. UROFSKY is professor of law and public policy and a professor emeritus of history at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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