Rusty Henrichsen's Reviews > Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices

Scorpions by Noah Feldman
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's review
Dec 03, 2011

really liked it

Interesting book - lots of New Deal history and the background of the four particular Supreme Court justices addressed in this book. Roosevelt appointed nine justices - this book is about four of them: Felix Frankfurter, Hugo Black, Robert Jackson and William O. Douglas. These men were all considered liberals before their appointments, but they morphed as they sat on the court. Douglas is the only one who was considered a liberal throughout his service.

Something that surprised me was the animosity that grew up between these men over the years. Some of it seems petty to me. I guess I always thought that the Court was a group of individuals with strong ideas but treating each other like colleagues. This is the picture I have of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and I have always imagined the same kind of relationship among the justices.

Feldman doesn't go into much detail except in the landmark cases decided by the court. The coverage of Brown v. Board of Education is very interesting. I had heard it said that Chief Justice Earl Warren had postponed the announcement of the decision until all nine were in agreement and that there would be only one opinion handed down. This was because he wanted there to be no reason for the public or politicians to be equivocal on the matter. This is true, but Felix Frankfurter was the first to propose delaying any announcement in the case and ask for a "re-argument." Frankfurter understood the great impact the decision would have on the nation and wanted unanimity even while Warren's precedessor was still on the bench.

I would have given 3 1/2 stars, but it is not an option. Anyone interested in the court for the period of the early 1900s to the middle 1970s should read the book.
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