High drama at the high court. Grandstanding at Senate hearings. Distrust on all sides. Nominations made by presidents and ignored or voted down by the Senate or withdrawn due to scandal, calumny or nominee intellectual nullity or professional capacity issues. The personal character of nominees assailed. Questions asked of nominees; detailed answers politely refused. Cries of illegitimacy and calls for reform.
All of this and more is on offer in Ilya Shapiro’s 2020 book, Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America's Highest Court (Gateway, 2020)
Everyone who cares about the law and the history and the future of the United States should read this book. It offers something to every sort of reader.
First, it is a serious work of scholarship that examines such questions as:
Is the Court, as progressives claim, really in some sort of crisis and merely a tool of a cabal involving the rather unlikely combination of corporate America and the supposedly evil religious right?
Or, as many on the right argue, has the legislative branch, for expediency’s sake and in a cowardly and self-serving fashion, abrogated its constitutional responsibilities, thereby ceding far too much power to both the administrative state and the courts?
Shapiro parses these questions with authority, weighing the pros and cons of the various reform measures of recent years with shrewdness, fairness and wit.
Second, for general readers it is an entertaining yet substantive tour of the American political and legal landscape since the Founding Era and abounds in fascinating facts (e.g., when the first public Senate hearings on a Supreme Court nominee were held, the first time such a nominee testified in person before the Senate, the first time such hearings were televised).
We learn about everything from the famous “Midnight Judges” to the fiascos of the nomination of Harriet Miers and those of Haysworth and Carswell. The book provides succinct profiles of such people that present them as distinct individuals and not as punchlines.
The book is perfectly timed given that it was published just before the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Senate hearings on the confirmation of now Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
This is the book to turn to in coming years for solid analysis as the left pushes for “reform” of not only the Supreme Court but the entire federal judiciary—which Shapiro also discusses in depth.
Give a listen.
Hope J. Leman is a grants researcher.
Hope J. Leman is a grants researcher in the biomedical sciences. She is particularly interested in the subjects of natural law, religious liberty and history generally.