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With the Supreme Court more influential than ever, this eye-opening book tells the story of how the Roberts Court is shaking the foundation of our nation’s laws From Citizens United to its momentous rulings regarding Obamacare and gay marriage, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has profoundly affected American life. Yet the court remains a mysterious instit With the Supreme Court more influential than ever, this eye-opening book tells the story of how the Roberts Court is shaking the foundation of our nation’s laws From Citizens United to its momentous rulings regarding Obamacare and gay marriage, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has profoundly affected American life. Yet the court remains a mysterious institution, and the motivations of the nine men and women who serve for life are often obscure. Now, in Uncertain Justice, Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz show the surprising extent to which the Roberts Court is revising the meaning of our Constitution. This essential book arrives at a make-or-break moment for the nation and the court. Political gridlock, cultural change, and technological progress mean that the court’s decisions on key topics—including free speech, privacy, voting rights, and presidential power—could be uniquely durable. Acutely aware of their opportunity, the justices are rewriting critical aspects of constitutional law and redrawing the ground rules of American government. Tribe—one of the country’s leading constitutional lawyers—and Matz dig deeply into the court’s recent rulings, stepping beyond tired debates over judicial “activism” to draw out hidden meanings and silent battles. The undercurrents they reveal suggest a strikingly different vision for the future of our country, one that is sure to be hotly debated. Filled with original insights and compelling human stories, Uncertain Justice illuminates the most colorful story of all—how the Supreme Court and the Constitution frame the way we live.


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With the Supreme Court more influential than ever, this eye-opening book tells the story of how the Roberts Court is shaking the foundation of our nation’s laws From Citizens United to its momentous rulings regarding Obamacare and gay marriage, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has profoundly affected American life. Yet the court remains a mysterious instit With the Supreme Court more influential than ever, this eye-opening book tells the story of how the Roberts Court is shaking the foundation of our nation’s laws From Citizens United to its momentous rulings regarding Obamacare and gay marriage, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has profoundly affected American life. Yet the court remains a mysterious institution, and the motivations of the nine men and women who serve for life are often obscure. Now, in Uncertain Justice, Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz show the surprising extent to which the Roberts Court is revising the meaning of our Constitution. This essential book arrives at a make-or-break moment for the nation and the court. Political gridlock, cultural change, and technological progress mean that the court’s decisions on key topics—including free speech, privacy, voting rights, and presidential power—could be uniquely durable. Acutely aware of their opportunity, the justices are rewriting critical aspects of constitutional law and redrawing the ground rules of American government. Tribe—one of the country’s leading constitutional lawyers—and Matz dig deeply into the court’s recent rulings, stepping beyond tired debates over judicial “activism” to draw out hidden meanings and silent battles. The undercurrents they reveal suggest a strikingly different vision for the future of our country, one that is sure to be hotly debated. Filled with original insights and compelling human stories, Uncertain Justice illuminates the most colorful story of all—how the Supreme Court and the Constitution frame the way we live.

30 review for Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Politics of Constitutional Law

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Tribe and Matz delve into the always complex world of constitutional law and its varied recent interpretations by the US Supreme Court. Their focus is the Roberts Court, the collection of justices whose rulings came down after John G. Roberts Jr. was appointed as Chief Justice in 2005. Within the pages of their highly informative tome, Tribe and Matz argue that while the ideological leanings of the nine justices may be fairly apparent, when it comes to constitutional interpretation, anything goe Tribe and Matz delve into the always complex world of constitutional law and its varied recent interpretations by the US Supreme Court. Their focus is the Roberts Court, the collection of justices whose rulings came down after John G. Roberts Jr. was appointed as Chief Justice in 2005. Within the pages of their highly informative tome, Tribe and Matz argue that while the ideological leanings of the nine justices may be fairly apparent, when it comes to constitutional interpretation, anything goes. With a varied collection of justices--a staunch originalist to a firmly grounded conservative to a die-hard liberal-- the US Supreme Court's rulings are ever-evolving and devised based on current understandings of the US Constitution's articles and amendments. Tribe and Matz elucidate the Court's varied opinions by discussing highly controversial and poignant topics such as gun control, same-sex rights, and privacy. The authors discuss the topics in a historical context, as they relate to judicial precedent, before presenting a key case that came before the Roberts Court. Tribe and Matz offer wonderful insights, touching on both rulings and dissents, to show the varied nature of the justices and the flavours they imbue in the larger discussion. Captivating and thoroughly educational, Tribe and Matz do a wonderful job presenting some legal interpretations on topics of great importance to Americans in a tumultuous decade and a half. A must-read for those with a keen interest in the law and constitutional interpretations. Tribe and Matz have a wonderful way of touching on a handful of topics, but not boring the reader as they travel through the tome. Written in a seamless fashion to show just how important the Roberts Court has become in the last number of years, while also showing that the Court is anything but dull and filled with stuffed shirts. The themes are aptly placed at a time when these issues remain at the forefront of Americans' lives, the cases are both telling and seem open to much interpretation, and the narrative flows effortlessly to permit the reader to sail from issue to issue and stop along the way to view how the nine justices staked their respective claims. Rarely have I come across a piece of non-fiction so full of energy that rises above the legal miasma that could have weighed it down in technical language and legal jargon. Powerfully presented and easy to read all at once! Kudos, Messrs. Tribe and Matz for your wonderful tome. If only all in the legal profession could follow your lead. Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    A favorite theme of popular culture is the disparity between justice and legality. That theme carries over in our opinions of the deliberations of the Supreme Court. With those deliberations shrouded in secrecy, and expressed in a formal argot not unlike a modern-day priestly Latinate, it is unsurprising that we grasp at simplistic tags to characterize the Court's thinking: originalism; judicial activism v. judicial restraint; liberal v. conservative opinions. The authors attempt, with only part A favorite theme of popular culture is the disparity between justice and legality. That theme carries over in our opinions of the deliberations of the Supreme Court. With those deliberations shrouded in secrecy, and expressed in a formal argot not unlike a modern-day priestly Latinate, it is unsurprising that we grasp at simplistic tags to characterize the Court's thinking: originalism; judicial activism v. judicial restraint; liberal v. conservative opinions. The authors attempt, with only partial success, to dispel this oversimplification and replace it with an appreciation for the nuanced thinking of the Court's individual members. Much of the writing presumes the kind of acquaintance with the Court's decisions that a law student might have. Key decisions such as District of Columbia v. Heller are discussed with only the briefest descriptive background. In one instance, N.W. Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, I had to look at Wikipedia to discover exactly how and why the case was decided. The authors praise Clarence Thomas' creative thinking: “Even those who disagree with him cannot deny that the Court has benefited from his remarkable string of solo opinions.” (p.21) I continue to fail to see what those benefits are. What was evident to me was an emphasis on ideological purity over real world considerations. In Citizens United v. FEC “he argued that Congress had no power even to require public disclosure of campaign contributions.” (p.93) The book covers nine significant areas affected by rulings of the Roberts Court. Each chapter is prefaced by a verbose historical narrative that would have been more effective in the post-presentation discussion. Clarity would have been achieved by opening with the Roberts Court cases, stating the author and arguments of the majority opinion, and contrasting each point with the multiple concurrences and dissents. The discussion would have made more sense presented in a more interactive style. I was especially frustrated by the presentation in Citizens United. The chapter begins on page 88. The authors dwell at length on the question of whether or not restricting money is a restriction of free speech. It is not until page 115 that they address the issue that a corporation is not just an assembly of like-minded citizens, but an entity whose constituents are anonymous and whose shareholders have no control over the political contributions of the corporation. Part of the problem is that these cases are complicated, a main point of the authors. Thus, the argument also included a lengthy debate over what constitutes corruption (the opinion narrowed it to a simple quid pro quo). Similarly, the authors expound at length on Scalia's originalist argument in D.C. v. Heller. The chapter begins on page 154. It is only by page 171 that the authors point out that it is illogical to hypothesize about thinking in the year 1791. Certainly, over time, both the writers of the Constitution as well as public opinion changed as new events unfolded. “Indeed, an emerging academic consensus holds that Heller actually protects a gun right grounded in traditions stretching from the founding to the present, not just a single lawmaking moment in 1791. If that is true, then the question of how we define relevant traditions — amd the related question of why modern Americans are apparently denied the opportunity to start new traditions of our own — comes sharply into focus.” A major strength of the book is its explanation of Kennedy's decisions. He was much more than the “swing vote.” His opinions are careful attempts to reconcile real world problems with his own judicial inclinations. The book is most articulate in its closing chapter “Access to Justice.” Here the authors demonstrate how a string of procedural decisions have curtailed access to the judicial process. Limiting class action suits, favoring agreements that insist on arbitration rather than litigation, and loosening accountability remedies for business are only a few of these rulings, which the authors imply will be far more consequential in the immediate future. This was a difficult book to read and I almost gave up on it. Although the authors did not intend it, I found the title to be an ironic commentary on the present state of the Supreme Court.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    The Supreme Court will soon complete the ninth term with Roberts as Chief Justice. The Robert Court has matured enough after more than 600 decisions to merit significant attention. In “Uncertain Justice” Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe and his former law student Joshua Matz find much to Analyze. Joshua Matz was law clerk in 2012 to Judge J. Paul Oetken of the Southern District of New York. In 2013-2014 he is clerk for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the ninth circuit court of appeals. I b The Supreme Court will soon complete the ninth term with Roberts as Chief Justice. The Robert Court has matured enough after more than 600 decisions to merit significant attention. In “Uncertain Justice” Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe and his former law student Joshua Matz find much to Analyze. Joshua Matz was law clerk in 2012 to Judge J. Paul Oetken of the Southern District of New York. In 2013-2014 he is clerk for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the ninth circuit court of appeals. I believe he may be a person to watch. The strength of the book is its painstaking explanation of all sides of the critical cases, giving full voice and weight to conservative and liberal views alike. The book is well-written and highly readable. It provides background, context and insight on important constitutional issues. On most issues, though, the right-leaning justices seem perfectly in agreement as to where they are going, even if they differ on the route. Antonin Scalia has been on the court long enough to see many of his dissents become law. He no doubt takes satisfaction in the sweep and success of the Roberts courts deregulatory campaign. The book covers key cases such as Citizens United, Heller (2nd Amendment gun) marriage act, health care, voter’s rights, affirmative action, and civil rights. The authors address the legal, philosophical and political motivation, and they document the general direction taking shape, as one that tends to reverse laws in many areas established since the New Deal. The Supreme Court can frame the way we live. The authors want readers to see at least two kind of uncertainty. One is the uncertain outcome of major issues still to come before the court; the other is the uncertain impact of certain decisions already rendered. But there is one facet of Roberts’s court where Tribe and Matz find real clarity, the shrinking unavailability of judicial relief. One of my goals this year was to read about the Supreme Court so I could have a better understanding of its role and influence. I also read biographies of justices to learn about the justices past and present and how they became a Supreme Court Justice. The year is half completed and from my reading I have come to appreciate the complexity of the Court and the critical role it has on our life. I also have come to appreciate the importance of the lower court judges. You can be assured that from now on I am going to be extremely careful in the local judges I vote for. I started the year with curiosity about the Court now I am truly fascinated with the subject. I read this as an audio book downloaded from Audible. Holter Graham did an excellent job narrating the book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brian Willis

    Rather than making an argument about legal and political trends within the Court's nine justices in regards to control from the left or the right, this books takes several critical areas of legal decisions over the first ten years of the Roberts court and looks at how these areas have been impacted by the Court's decisions. Ranging from the 1st and 2nd Amendments, to corporate law and criminal rights, as well as challenges to the executive, the book does an excellent job of summarizing cases and Rather than making an argument about legal and political trends within the Court's nine justices in regards to control from the left or the right, this books takes several critical areas of legal decisions over the first ten years of the Roberts court and looks at how these areas have been impacted by the Court's decisions. Ranging from the 1st and 2nd Amendments, to corporate law and criminal rights, as well as challenges to the executive, the book does an excellent job of summarizing cases and rulings over that decade, and as of this writing is the most recent major book on the Supreme Court. It's not always as pleasurable of a read as say Jeffrey Toobin, and I personally disagree very strongly with the authors' defense of the ruling on Citizens United (they defend it). Nonetheless, an intelligent reader can take away the following observations: that the Reagan and Bush (x2) appointees are currently ruling the Court with Clinton and Obama appointees more often than not dissenting. Alito often counteracted Scalia and is not an originalist like he and Thomas. Clarence Thomas is far more conservative than Scalia was (!), perhaps the most conservative the Court has ever had - and when you consider Chief Justice Taney, that's saying something. Sotomayor is an absolutely brilliant younger jurist on the Court, and don't be surprised to see her as Chief Justice someday. Kagan is also very smart and still emerging with a lot of potential. The Court has expanded personal rights, shrunk the rights of defendants against law enforcement, dismantled most of the regulatory legislation challenged before it, and made some hideous decisions regarding business rights while contradicting itself by also limiting the rights of consumers to protect themselves via class action lawsuits. With the death of Scalia, and an empty seat, one can see how vitally important that seat is for control of the future of the court - especially with three of the justices in or near their eighties. A good book for a primer on recent decisions (released just before marriage equality was declared).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    While I have respected Tribe for decades as the smartest person who "will never be on the Supreme Court", and I do not agree with his Searles' commitment to "social justice", this work is both brilliant and balanced. None of the Chris Matthews / Sean Hannity blustering blather, Tribe instead uses logic, facts and, yes, fairness to illuminate The Court's personalities and philosophical positions. Not for the casual student or reader (Tribe isn't afraid of complex allusions, BIG words and very subt While I have respected Tribe for decades as the smartest person who "will never be on the Supreme Court", and I do not agree with his Searles' commitment to "social justice", this work is both brilliant and balanced. None of the Chris Matthews / Sean Hannity blustering blather, Tribe instead uses logic, facts and, yes, fairness to illuminate The Court's personalities and philosophical positions. Not for the casual student or reader (Tribe isn't afraid of complex allusions, BIG words and very subtle points!) if you want to understand and appreciate the intellectual debates engaging The Supreme Court, Tribe is the perfect guide! Dante should have been so lucky!!! WOW!!!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    i won this book through goodreads. This book is definitely a eye opener & a must read to all!

  7. 4 out of 5

    wade

    For a limited audience, this is a really good book. The authors take a detailed look at all the decisions of import made by the Roberts era Supreme Court to try to determine the direction they are going. What was interesting to me is that in only a few areas do the conservative and liberal factions vote in lock step - pro business decisions (conservatives) for instance. What we see overall is a pretty complex pattern with judges flipping sides - Roberts on Obamacare. I would say this book is a For a limited audience, this is a really good book. The authors take a detailed look at all the decisions of import made by the Roberts era Supreme Court to try to determine the direction they are going. What was interesting to me is that in only a few areas do the conservative and liberal factions vote in lock step - pro business decisions (conservatives) for instance. What we see overall is a pretty complex pattern with judges flipping sides - Roberts on Obamacare. I would say this book is a must read for any legal professionals or anyone really into the American legal system. Very well done.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I don't really know what to do with this book. I didn't actually finish the whole thing but I'm done with reading it. It's hard to keep track of each justice, but I like the in depth way the authors discuss/ debate each topic. Very informative and interesting for the chapters I did read. I don't really know what to do with this book. I didn't actually finish the whole thing but I'm done with reading it. It's hard to keep track of each justice, but I like the in depth way the authors discuss/ debate each topic. Very informative and interesting for the chapters I did read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sean Ikon

    "Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished. Maybe happen is never once but like ripples maybe on water after the pebble sinks, the ripples moving on, spreading, the pool attached by a narrow umbilical water-cord to the next pool which the first pool feeds." The Roberts Court has gutted the Civil Rights Act. It affirmed Health Care, but used the ruling to build jurisprudence to narrow Congress's power under the Necessary & Proper Clause (which serves as the vital role in effectuating its oth "Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished. Maybe happen is never once but like ripples maybe on water after the pebble sinks, the ripples moving on, spreading, the pool attached by a narrow umbilical water-cord to the next pool which the first pool feeds." The Roberts Court has gutted the Civil Rights Act. It affirmed Health Care, but used the ruling to build jurisprudence to narrow Congress's power under the Necessary & Proper Clause (which serves as the vital role in effectuating its other power.) It foreclosed on most efforts to regulate campaign finance. It has often abandoned it's some-what libertarian views when it comes to freedom of speech. In case after case, the Court has erected new hurdles for those who have been harmed and seek redress in the courts. It has limited the rights of the accused. It has invented gun ownership rights. It has allowed companies to use fine print to take away the right to trial by a jury or a judge for consumers and employees; it has also made it more difficult for victims of corporate wrongdoing to band together, and made it easier for claims of relief to be thrown out of court at the earliest stages. It has held that the religious rights of employers trumped women’s right to receive comprehensive health-insurance coverage, including coverage for contraceptives. The percentage of business cases on the Supreme Court docket has grown in recent years, as has the percentage of cases won by business interests. Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito are among the most business friendly justices since 1946…even as most polls signal Americans are growing tired of pro-corporate decisions. The next President will likely select four new Justices...Justices who will shape the rights of the nation for the next quarter of a century. Hopefully, they will move it in a different and better direction.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Rincon

    Four stars for content, 3 stars for the fact it was a tad dry. The best part about this book was how it was so balanced and nuanced. It made me more open-minded on some of the biggest issues the court has decided over the past decade or so. I loved how I couldn't tell where the authors actually fell on each issue. Instead, they portrayed both sides evenly and fairly. Refreshing! I'm not used to difficult reading, so this took me awhile to get through. Especially the later chapters. But it was so Four stars for content, 3 stars for the fact it was a tad dry. The best part about this book was how it was so balanced and nuanced. It made me more open-minded on some of the biggest issues the court has decided over the past decade or so. I loved how I couldn't tell where the authors actually fell on each issue. Instead, they portrayed both sides evenly and fairly. Refreshing! I'm not used to difficult reading, so this took me awhile to get through. Especially the later chapters. But it was so worth forcing this information into my brain. It gave me so much insight into the Supreme Court, an institution I knew very little about. I certainly don't know everything about it, but I have begun to understand the challenges and complexities it entails, and why the written supreme court opinions matter so much. And I now understand the justices better. I don't agree with many of them, but I now understand where they're coming from. A very interesting glimpse into the potential future of our country.

  11. 4 out of 5

    George Ashmore

    I won this thru Goodreads and wasn't sure about it when I started it and noticed the politics of the writers--not in the way, just made me wonder. But the information & insight in this book is greatly appreciated by me & greatly needed by the public. Most media don't report what is happening in the judiciary worth spit but I now understand the current Supreme Court much better--just don't like it any better. We have the worst of all possible worlds--a big government loving, average citizen despi I won this thru Goodreads and wasn't sure about it when I started it and noticed the politics of the writers--not in the way, just made me wonder. But the information & insight in this book is greatly appreciated by me & greatly needed by the public. Most media don't report what is happening in the judiciary worth spit but I now understand the current Supreme Court much better--just don't like it any better. We have the worst of all possible worlds--a big government loving, average citizen despising group of 2 factions, neither of which cares for the entire country or understands the correct position of the Court--referees, not philosipher kings ( yes, I know it is the wrong spelling, no time to look it up). Highly recomended unless you prefer to not know how bad things are. Deep insight, invaluable knowledge. A Good Read!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Sabian

    When I was in college, I briefly toyed with the idea of going to law school after I graduated. I didn't wind up going because I wasn't really interested in the mundane, day to day aspects of the legal profession. I wanted to graduate right into a job of arguing cases before the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, life doesn't really work that way. This remarkable book reminded me of the reasons that constitutional law was such a lure to me. More so than any book I've read in a very long time, it's bal When I was in college, I briefly toyed with the idea of going to law school after I graduated. I didn't wind up going because I wasn't really interested in the mundane, day to day aspects of the legal profession. I wanted to graduate right into a job of arguing cases before the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, life doesn't really work that way. This remarkable book reminded me of the reasons that constitutional law was such a lure to me. More so than any book I've read in a very long time, it's balanced. Laurence Tribe is a famous, left-leaning scholar but he goes out of his way to express his admiration for the intellects of everyone on the Roberts court and he presents each argument and counter-argument fairly. I don't often re-read books but I have a feeling I'm going to be looking at this one again and again. Excellent read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Patton

    The book is well written. It is written so that the common citizens can understand the context of the book. I was very enlightened about the Supreme Court and how the Constitution work together to make judgments on important issues. Current day issues are used as examples which makes the reading more interesting. I still don't believe all judgments are by-partisan. I don't believe anyone person can not lean one way or the other when dealing with political issues and the Constitution. If anyone i The book is well written. It is written so that the common citizens can understand the context of the book. I was very enlightened about the Supreme Court and how the Constitution work together to make judgments on important issues. Current day issues are used as examples which makes the reading more interesting. I still don't believe all judgments are by-partisan. I don't believe anyone person can not lean one way or the other when dealing with political issues and the Constitution. If anyone is interested in learning about the Supreme Court and the Constitution this would be a very good book to read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marcus Vinicius

    The US Supreme Court decisions give us the meaning of constitutional rights found in the US Constitution. Its precedents set the constitucional law, pointing the way in with lower courts should decide a vast array of cases. The book examined the Roberts Court, referring to the decisions adopted until the 2013/2014 term. Gender equality, the right to privacy, States and Union rights, campaign finances are some of the points explored. When two constitucional values collide in a judicial case, the The US Supreme Court decisions give us the meaning of constitutional rights found in the US Constitution. Its precedents set the constitucional law, pointing the way in with lower courts should decide a vast array of cases. The book examined the Roberts Court, referring to the decisions adopted until the 2013/2014 term. Gender equality, the right to privacy, States and Union rights, campaign finances are some of the points explored. When two constitucional values collide in a judicial case, the final decision is unpredictable. The outcome is uncertain but, as long different points of view are considered and one history and tradition are concerned, justice is served.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brian Morris

    This is a welcome book to counter the widespread cynicism that the Supreme Court is really just another legislative body of politicians with 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats. Of course there is some basis for this stereotype with the many recent 5 to 4 decisions, but the overall picture is much more complex and interesting as this book makes clear. But the book does confirm one stereotype in that the Roberts Court is a reliable champion of the "overdog" whether it be business, the police, or the go This is a welcome book to counter the widespread cynicism that the Supreme Court is really just another legislative body of politicians with 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats. Of course there is some basis for this stereotype with the many recent 5 to 4 decisions, but the overall picture is much more complex and interesting as this book makes clear. But the book does confirm one stereotype in that the Roberts Court is a reliable champion of the "overdog" whether it be business, the police, or the government.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Guna

    Have you ever wondered how Supreme Court decisions are made? This very readable book looks at several contemporary issues, such as health care and gun rights, and allows us to take a peak at the decision process. It's not what most of us think. Have you ever wondered how Supreme Court decisions are made? This very readable book looks at several contemporary issues, such as health care and gun rights, and allows us to take a peak at the decision process. It's not what most of us think.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Book

    Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution by Laurence Tribe, Joshua Matz “Uncertain Justice” is a well-researched and insightful look at the Roberts court. It will help you gain a better understanding of the nine lawyers, their philosophies, their rulings and the impact it has on our society. Legal scholar Tribe and legal writer Matz have provided the public with keen insights into some of the most important decisions of the Supreme Court. This interesting 416-page book includes Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution by Laurence Tribe, Joshua Matz “Uncertain Justice” is a well-researched and insightful look at the Roberts court. It will help you gain a better understanding of the nine lawyers, their philosophies, their rulings and the impact it has on our society. Legal scholar Tribe and legal writer Matz have provided the public with keen insights into some of the most important decisions of the Supreme Court. This interesting 416-page book includes the following nine chapters: 1. Equality: Are We There Yet?, 2. Health Care: Liberty on the Line, 3. Campaign Finance: Follow the Money, 4. Freedom of Speech: Sex, Lies, and Video Games, 5. Gun Rights: Armed and Dangerous, 6. Presidential Power: Hail to the Chief, 7. Privacy: What Have You Got to Hide?, 8. Rights for Sale: Discounting the Constitution, and 9. Making Rights Real: Access to Justice. Positives: 1. A well-researched, reasoned and even-handed book. 2. The fascinating topic of uncertainty at the Supreme Court in the hands of masters of the subject. It’s professionally treated. “In this book, we show how conventional wisdom on these matters is often misleading, and we draw out the latent meaning of many of this Court’s most important opinions to identify the uncertainties facing the nation and its justices.” 3. Goes beyond the stereotypical bent of liberals vs. conservatives and illustrates many cases where the justices surprisingly agree and disagree with one another. Great exploratory depth on how the justices disagree and do so by presenting their strongest arguments and rebuttals. 4. Does a wonderful job of portraying each justice accurately based on their backgrounds, philosophies and rulings. “Widely considered the best Supreme Court advocate of his generation, Roberts was known before his ascension to the Court as a gifted writer, skilled strategist, and brilliant legal mind.” “On the Court, Sotomayor has emerged as a voice for common sense. She has also displayed a keen sensitivity to the potential for injustice in law enforcement, calling attention to maltreatment in prisons, abuses of the death penalty system, dangers to privacy rights, and police and prosecutorial misconduct.” 5. Goes over some of the most noteworthy cases of the Roberts court. Cases include Citizens United, Affordable Care Act, and many other controversial cases that impact American life. It does so by going over the arguments of each case in the words of the justices. 6. Really puts in perspective the role of the Supreme Court in practice. “The Court receives roughly eight thousand petitions for review per year and usually grants around seventy-five, with each grant requiring the vote of four justices.” 7. How the Roberts court view equality. “In Parents Involved, Roberts championed a color-blind constitution, one that forbids government from using racial classifications—even when the goal is to benefit minorities.” Ginsburg on the other hand argued, “We are not far distant from an overtly discriminatory past, and the effects of centuries of law-sanctioned inequality remain painfully evident in our communities and schools.” 8. Fascinating tidbits that reflect how we have evolved as a society. “State-sanctioned discrimination was widely accepted; when IBM hired Windsor, it unknowingly violated an executive order barring companies with federal contracts from employing homosexuals.” “In Windsor, Kennedy—joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan—held that DOMA cannot stand. But rather than rule broadly that the Constitution protects a right to same-sex marriage, he limited the direct holding of his opinion to the federal law under review.” 9. An interesting look back at the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). “Because the Constitution permits such a tax,” the Chief concluded, “it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.” Construed as a tax, the “mandate” survived.” 10. The application of the Constitution of course plays a prominent role throughout the book. “The central insight regarding limits on federal power, credited to James Madison, is that the Constitution protects rights in more ways than one. Its most direct method of protection is to say something such as “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” By recognizing a right, the Constitution creates a strong presumption in favor of that kind of liberty. It tells Americans that we value this right; it also tells politicians to respect it and courts to guard its boundaries.” 11. Citizens United Case. The dissent may have been the most interesting aspect of that case. “Fast approaching the end of his long and storied career on the Court, Stevens composed a ninety-page dissent that besieged every factual premise, procedural device, and legal argument in Citizens United. The final lines of this epic opinion foreshadowed the coming conflict: ‘While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.’” 12. Options considered reforming Citizens United. “To those concerned by Citizens United, disclosure is likely to remain the most promising and realistic reform option.” 13. Interesting cases involving free speech. Cases involving prisoners, whistleblowers, new technology, violent speech, obscenity, etc…”Kennedy reasoned, ‘the remedy for speech that is false is speech that is true.’” 14. A look at gun rights exemplified by the District of Columbia v. Heller case. “Heller was hailed by Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein as ‘the most explicitly and self-consciously originalist opinion in the history of the Supreme Court.’” 15. The various interpretations of the Second Amendment. “In sum, though the Court refused to ‘pronounce the Second Amendment extinct,’ it also declined to disable effective gun regulation.” 16. Fascinating look at presidential power. “In sum, it would be undesirable and, indeed, impossible to require maximum enforcement of every federal law but dangerous to allow presidents simply to ignore any law they dislike.” 17. A look at privacy. “Sotomayor, willing to reconsider foundational precedents and more open to an active judicial role, has emerged as an eloquent champion of privacy’s importance.” “Sotomayor’s effort to forge a set of rights adapted to twenty-first-century realities, however, has met a more hostile audience among her colleagues. She wrote alone in a case about warrantless GPS tracking to argue that we may need to fundamentally rethink privacy rights.” 18. A look at our rights. “In sum, government enjoys broad power to offer deals in which we trade rights for other benefits, and in most cases we have no option but to make a choice.” 19. Access to justice. “The Court has reflected that sentiment by issuing a string of opinions—all decided five-to-four and all authored by Scalia—that have the obvious purpose of destroying most consumer and employment class actions.” “In general, a majority of the Roberts Court seems to doubt the value and legitimacy of many civil rights suits and favors legal rules that keep most of them out of court. The result is a shrinking judicial role in enforcing the Constitution and protecting our liberties. “ 20. Links to notes. Negatives: 1. Lack of visual material that could have strengthened the understanding of this excellent material. I would have suggested tables that summarized the rulings of each case that would have been invaluable to me. 2. Along the same lines as negative number one; charts, diagrams and even photos would have complemented the narrative. 3. Some of the cases follow one another in rapid-fire and may lose the reader. 4. Can be tedious reading at times. 5. No formal bibliography included. In summary, missed opportunities aside this is an excellent book. Tribe and Matz in a fair and professional manner provide the public with some interesting insights into the Roberts court. They cover some of the most interesting cases and provide the justices perspectives. “We aim to make useful generalizations about why the justices see things the way they do, what competing visions press against their core beliefs, and where their assumptions and aspirations are likely to lead them.” This is a 4.5 star out of five, I highly recommend it! Further recommendations: “The Roberts Court” by Marcia Coyle, “The Nine” and “The Oath” By Jeffrey Toobin, “The Brethren” by Bob Woodward, “Six Amendments” by John Paul Stevens, “Five Chiefs” by John Paul Stevens, “Overruled” by Damon Root, “Scalia” by Bruce Allen Murphy, “Justice for All” by Jim Newton, “A People’s History of the Supreme Court” by Peter Irons, “Making Our Democracy Work” by Stephen Breyer, “The Conservative Assault on the Constitution” by Erwin Chemerinsky, and “My Beloved World” by Sonia Sotomayor.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    A deeply depressing book, and the Supreme Court is even held tighter in the hands of right wing conservatism than it was at the time the book was written. Roberts entire career has been underwritten by the Koch brothers. And with the addition of Gorsuch, who voted that a truck driver should have been fired when he left his loaded truck in a blizzard (seeking warmth and shelter and saving his life), we have even more deference to employers against workers. And Kavanaugh, a hack whose major accomp A deeply depressing book, and the Supreme Court is even held tighter in the hands of right wing conservatism than it was at the time the book was written. Roberts entire career has been underwritten by the Koch brothers. And with the addition of Gorsuch, who voted that a truck driver should have been fired when he left his loaded truck in a blizzard (seeking warmth and shelter and saving his life), we have even more deference to employers against workers. And Kavanaugh, a hack whose major accomplishment was writing the most salacious sections of the Starr report, will be a clone of Roberts. The authors take the long view, that a pendulum is swinging, but in the meantime we are living in a time of very polished and heartless men, who have found favor with the rich and powerful, raised in cocoons of privilege and indifferent to human rights.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gerry Connolly

    In Uncertain Justice Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz analyze the first 10 years of the Roberts court. It is a sad retreat on administrative law, the environment, civil rights, gun control, consumer protection and women’s reproductive rights. And this is before Gorsuch goes on the court and Kavanaugh’s nomination. The conservative view that now prevails on the SCOTUS has chilling implications for an expansionary view of constitutional liberties and free speech.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    4.5 stars. Certainly there are details to nitpick in the way the authors present certain cases. That said, this an inciteful (although necessarily dated) discussion of the 2014 Court. Unlike "The Brethren" or "The Nine," this book focuses on the cases more than the personalities of the justices. The disagreements, in particular, make fascinating reading. 4.5 stars. Certainly there are details to nitpick in the way the authors present certain cases. That said, this an inciteful (although necessarily dated) discussion of the 2014 Court. Unlike "The Brethren" or "The Nine," this book focuses on the cases more than the personalities of the justices. The disagreements, in particular, make fascinating reading.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Terry Feix

    A balanced look at the history and trend of the Roberts Court and its rulings in various contemporary issues.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jayakrishnan

    Sweeping. Contemporary. Insightful. The popular image of the Roberts Court is that of two sharply divided ideological blocs consisting of four justices on each side with Justice Kennedy sitting on the fence swinging either way from case to case. Although some decisions of the Court do reinforce that image, in truth, the Court is far too complex to fit into such a characterization, for sitting on it are nine remarkable individuals, each with his or her own philosophical underpinning, “high politic Sweeping. Contemporary. Insightful. The popular image of the Roberts Court is that of two sharply divided ideological blocs consisting of four justices on each side with Justice Kennedy sitting on the fence swinging either way from case to case. Although some decisions of the Court do reinforce that image, in truth, the Court is far too complex to fit into such a characterization, for sitting on it are nine remarkable individuals, each with his or her own philosophical underpinning, “high politics of constitutional principles” and temperament. Added to these “human elements” are the intricacies of the questions they adjudicate. The result of their work is an uncharted path along which justice treads and falters. Therefore, such easy compartmentalizations--liberal v. conservative, Democrat v. Republican, activist v. advocate of judicial restraint--alone are painfully inadequate for a fair assessment of the Roberts Court and to capture what it holds for the future. It is this daunting task of demystifying the complexity of the Court that Harvard law professor (and Supreme Court advocate) Laurence Tribe and recent HLS graduate Joshua Matz try to accomplish in Uncertain Justice. There can be no better reason to explore the Roberts Court than the fact that the Court, having called upon to decide several critical questions--from that concerning the intimate lives of ordinary citizens to the powers of the President of the United States--in the last nine years, through seventy odd opinions a year have exerted and continue to exert a deep and abiding influence on the daily lives of Americans. Uncertain Justice takes us a long way in this endeavour of understanding the Court. The principal thesis of the book is that the course of justice determined by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and his eight colleagues is fraught with uncertainties. There is no grand, unified theory that can explain all their decisions. The uncertainty that Tribe and Matz talk about is not the aphoristic 'glorious uncertainty of law' or the occasional gallimaufry among justices cutting across perceived ideological lines. On the contrary, it is brought about by “the Roberts Court whose work involves an ever–shifting mix of principles, ideology, statesmanship and personality.” While attempting to comprehend the work of the Court, the authors treat “nodes of uncertainty” not as obstacles rather as possibilities--“points where debate about the Constitution's meaning is particularly intense, the Court is torn about its role, the effect of its decisions remain obscure or the justices' goal seem unclear or contradictory” can offer deeper insights, they argue. The authors focus on nine major areas of constitutional law, some popular and contentious like campaign finance, gun rights, marriage equality, Obamacare and some less familiar, like access to justice. Their commentary is sweeping and highly readable and analysis incisive. Context, content and consequences of several recent decisions are investigated. Each side is given its due. Trends and patterns are highlighted. Fault lines are exposed. The authors' genius, painstaking research, sophistication are on full display throughout the book. The chapter on campaign finance, for instance, is a master stroke. Uncertain Justice is striking for other reasons too. The discussions are centred around human narratives. One gets to read about the lives of Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer before having to ponder what 'equal protection of the laws' entails. Laurence Tribe is a card carrying liberal. Yet there is no vilifying even the most controversial of conservative opinions (or Justice Scalia's saucy dissents or Justice Thomas' lengthy “historical essays” for that matter.) The tone of the book is gentle and respectful. In addition to the political hot potatoes they decide, every year the Court also issues several low profile rulings, many of which go unnoticed by the public. With the same zeal they had shown in studying the hot cases, Tribe and Matz cover many such rulings in the area of access to justice. What is more important is that this is one area where the Roberts Court is less uncertain (and perhaps where the book's conclusion betrays its title), and has exhibited more pronounced trends than in any other area. The result, sadly, is not all too bright. The book shows that the Court “has dealt critical legal rules a thousand cuts--leaving many of our rights intact but making them effectively impossible to enforce in any court.” On certain questions, the Roberts Court has already sent clear signals whereas on some other questions, the Court is still at crossroads. Uncertain Justice offers “greater insight into what the Roberts Court is doing, where it is going and how it is moving--at times haltingly and uncertainly-– along the moral arc of history, the long arc that bends towards justice.”

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    Let me begin by noting that I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of this from the publisher. The following are my own thoughts and rating. I'm also writing this review as a huge Supreme Court nerd. I count The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong amongst my favourite non-fiction titles. So I enjoyed reading this very much, but I can only speak as someone who already counts the goings-on of the Court as an interest. Unlike most other books about the U.S. Supreme Co Let me begin by noting that I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of this from the publisher. The following are my own thoughts and rating. I'm also writing this review as a huge Supreme Court nerd. I count The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong amongst my favourite non-fiction titles. So I enjoyed reading this very much, but I can only speak as someone who already counts the goings-on of the Court as an interest. Unlike most other books about the U.S. Supreme Court aimed at the general public--which tend to capitalize on personal and ideological strife amongst the members--Uncertain Justice focuses on the important legal decisions made by the Court under Chief Justice John Roberts, on what legal grounds the opinions were developed, and how these decisions affect the arc of certain areas of law overall. The book also seeks to explain whether some common perceptions of the Court are indeed accurate (for example, that it is pro-business, or that they are purposefully rolling back Civil Rights protections). Uncertain Justice's authors struggle mightily to present a well-rounded, unbiased account of the U.S. Supreme Court's justices and their landmark decisions, and more often than not succeed. I really enjoyed their account of how the legal minds of the justices appear to work, and thought every case covered was outlined in an easy-to-understand way for those not accustomed to the jargon. Most importantly, to me, is that (although it can become slow at times) Tribe and Matz are clearly taken with their subject. I mean, you can totally tell that they are fascinated by the machinations of the Supreme Court; it comes across clearly on every page. If there is one thing that I think is important in non-fiction, it's a passion for what you're writing about. Where there is passion, there creates interest for the reader, and the authors have it in spades.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jack Townsend

    I really liked the book because the authors make a serious attempt to show Justices with various biases work through the really important job that they have to apply the law and the Constitution for the best interest of the country. Importantly, they show that it is not just a matter of calling balls and strikes, as Justice Roberts famously said during his confirmation hearings. Rather, it is about setting direction with deep appreciation of the historical and constitutional framework of the cou I really liked the book because the authors make a serious attempt to show Justices with various biases work through the really important job that they have to apply the law and the Constitution for the best interest of the country. Importantly, they show that it is not just a matter of calling balls and strikes, as Justice Roberts famously said during his confirmation hearings. Rather, it is about setting direction with deep appreciation of the historical and constitutional framework of the country and shaping the concepts to deal with new issues and new problems. I thought the book was extremely fair. We discussed the book at a book club last night. One member expressed concern that the authors had general liberal biases. I think that is true, principally because I was somewhat familiar with Larry Tribe. But, I don't think that was evident in much of the discussion which I thought instead dealt more with the biases of the Justices. And I don't think the authors presented their biases in a negative way. We all have biases. It would be unrealistic to expect Justices not to have them and not to bring their biases to the task of judging. Everyone must just recognize the biases and moderate them in the task of either judging or, in the cases of nonJustices, understanding how they judge. Overall a really good book. One thing though, the Supreme Court's flavor or personality (an amalgam of all their flavors and personalities) will change soon unless the Republicans carrythrough with the threats of some of them to thwart the "advise and consent" process indefinitely. Assuming that does not happen, the Roberts Court will look a lot different than it has in the recent past.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    Densely packed with dates and case names, this book runs through the last decade of many of the most important Supreme Court decisions, tempering and explaining them with a historical context and exploring the constitutional intricacies that led to each decision. It doesn't play partisan politics, it neither praises nor vilifies any specific justice or decision, and it refrains from social commentary. It simply explains the details of the cases, then summarizes how the justices said they arrived Densely packed with dates and case names, this book runs through the last decade of many of the most important Supreme Court decisions, tempering and explaining them with a historical context and exploring the constitutional intricacies that led to each decision. It doesn't play partisan politics, it neither praises nor vilifies any specific justice or decision, and it refrains from social commentary. It simply explains the details of the cases, then summarizes how the justices said they arrived at those decisions, how the decisions impacted and will continue to impact our country, and what the decisions (and, more importantly, the rhyme and reason of those decisions) say about the ideology and direction of the Roberts Court. It is fascinating and informative, and really shows how little typically gets reported about the complex and far-reaching aspects of Supreme Court decisions. It offers no easy answers and takes no sides or positions. It seems to seek only to inform, and in that regard, it is quite valuable and engrossing. This book was won from the publisher through the Goodreads First Reads program. Thank you!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Raymond

    I'm very much a court-watcher, and really love the whole political legal process. As someone who doesn't read Tribe very often, however, I was interested but wary to go into this book. The good news is that it's a very good recap of the last decade of the Supreme Court. It does a good job of highlighting the major cases and both sides of the discussion, giving a fair shake to most arguments and justices along the way. Even better is that Tribe, a known left wing commentator, rarely lets his ideol I'm very much a court-watcher, and really love the whole political legal process. As someone who doesn't read Tribe very often, however, I was interested but wary to go into this book. The good news is that it's a very good recap of the last decade of the Supreme Court. It does a good job of highlighting the major cases and both sides of the discussion, giving a fair shake to most arguments and justices along the way. Even better is that Tribe, a known left wing commentator, rarely lets his ideology get in the way of the discussion. It's a refreshing way to read about the Court from a professional, one wishes folks like Jeffrey Toobin would get the memo. The book is not perfect. I do wish more attention were given to certain aspects of the discussions, and, when Tribe's ideology does come out to play, it's fairly obvious and detrimental. As rare as it is, though, it doesn't significantly take away from the overall narrative. On a whole, a great read that anyone interested in the Supreme Court should pick up. Absolutely worth the time and investment.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mysteryfan

    Lawrence Tribe is a recognized Supreme Court scholar. Joshua Matz is a frequent contributor to SCOTUSblog. Together they've written a book about the Roberts Court that is readable, thoroughly researched, and eye-opening. They clear away a number of misconceptions about the Supreme Court and each of the justices. The authors focus on nine major areas of the law and explain the basis for some of the Court's major decisions over the past five years in a nonpartisan way. It's well worth reading if y Lawrence Tribe is a recognized Supreme Court scholar. Joshua Matz is a frequent contributor to SCOTUSblog. Together they've written a book about the Roberts Court that is readable, thoroughly researched, and eye-opening. They clear away a number of misconceptions about the Supreme Court and each of the justices. The authors focus on nine major areas of the law and explain the basis for some of the Court's major decisions over the past five years in a nonpartisan way. It's well worth reading if you want to understand the impact of the Supreme Court on our lives. And an excellent quote from Justice Jackson in discussing the history of the First Amendment: "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by their words or acts their faith therein."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Extremely informative, authors (and lawyers) Tribe and Matz take the reader through a few of the major decisions in the first ten years of the Roberts Court. Tribe is a nationally famous Supreme Court litigator and Matz is also deeply involved in the workings of the Court. First, although its apparent how the authors feel about the decisions discussed, I thought they did a good job of presenting the different sides of the cases in order to allow readers a reasonable shot at deciding for themselv Extremely informative, authors (and lawyers) Tribe and Matz take the reader through a few of the major decisions in the first ten years of the Roberts Court. Tribe is a nationally famous Supreme Court litigator and Matz is also deeply involved in the workings of the Court. First, although its apparent how the authors feel about the decisions discussed, I thought they did a good job of presenting the different sides of the cases in order to allow readers a reasonable shot at deciding for themselves. The more famous cases, such as 'Citizens United', Affirmative Action, and the Defense of Marriage Act are discussed, as well as some less publicized but every bit as important cases. As most people know but rarely contemplate, the Supreme Court has a subtle, but huge impact on the life of every American. This is a well written, important book that is well worth your time.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Spencer

    I think these authors do an incredible job of laying out the various threads of constitutional thought among 9 different areas of public policy/public wellfare. I think they lay out a clear articulation of the various arguments that won the day in each case, taking care not to overly add their own weight here and there. Some may dislike this, as they may view the left-leaning wing of the court to be ideologically bankrupt, or for constitutional originalism to be rotten to the core, but I came to I think these authors do an incredible job of laying out the various threads of constitutional thought among 9 different areas of public policy/public wellfare. I think they lay out a clear articulation of the various arguments that won the day in each case, taking care not to overly add their own weight here and there. Some may dislike this, as they may view the left-leaning wing of the court to be ideologically bankrupt, or for constitutional originalism to be rotten to the core, but I came to this book to learn, not to have my own pre-conceived notions of constitutionality reinforced. On that front I understand better the perspective of the conservatives on the court, though I'm not sure it moved the needle much on my agreement (or lack thereof) with the conservatives. Overall, very good. Engaging. Thought provoking, and extremely detailed. Thumbs up!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen (itpdx)

    Fascinating. Well written and organized. Tribe and Matz have analyzed the Robert's Court. They do it by looking at the court's rulings in a number of constitutional domains--equality, privacy, freedom of speech, gun rights, campaign finance, etc. The authors take time to set the stage with past rulings and the cases considered in a brief, readable way. They give us the rulings and dissents with nuanced explanations. Although this was published in 2014 and some momentous decisions have been made Fascinating. Well written and organized. Tribe and Matz have analyzed the Robert's Court. They do it by looking at the court's rulings in a number of constitutional domains--equality, privacy, freedom of speech, gun rights, campaign finance, etc. The authors take time to set the stage with past rulings and the cases considered in a brief, readable way. They give us the rulings and dissents with nuanced explanations. Although this was published in 2014 and some momentous decisions have been made in the interim, it is still very timely. I read it after Justice Scalia's death and it was enlightening to me. I now have an inkling of what he has meant to the Court and I suspect that whoever replaces him will bring a very different constitutional attitude to the Court.

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