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Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America's Highest Court

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The brutal confirmation battles we saw over Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are symptoms of a larger problem with our third branch of government, a problem that began long before Kavanaugh, Merrick Garland, Clarence Thomas, or even Robert Bork: the courts’ own self-corruption, aiding and abetting the expansion of federal power. Ilya Shapiro, direct The brutal confirmation battles we saw over Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are symptoms of a larger problem with our third branch of government, a problem that began long before Kavanaugh, Merrick Garland, Clarence Thomas, or even Robert Bork: the courts’ own self-corruption, aiding and abetting the expansion of federal power. Ilya Shapiro, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies, takes readers inside the unknown history of fiercly partisan judicial nominations and explores reform proposals that could return the Supreme Court to its proper constitutional role. Confirmation battles over justices will only become more toxic and unhinged as long as the Court continues to ratify the excesses of the other two branches of government and the parties that control them. Only when the Court begins to rebalance constitutional order, curb administrative overreach, and return power back to the states will the bitter partisan war to control the judiciary finally end. 


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The brutal confirmation battles we saw over Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are symptoms of a larger problem with our third branch of government, a problem that began long before Kavanaugh, Merrick Garland, Clarence Thomas, or even Robert Bork: the courts’ own self-corruption, aiding and abetting the expansion of federal power. Ilya Shapiro, direct The brutal confirmation battles we saw over Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are symptoms of a larger problem with our third branch of government, a problem that began long before Kavanaugh, Merrick Garland, Clarence Thomas, or even Robert Bork: the courts’ own self-corruption, aiding and abetting the expansion of federal power. Ilya Shapiro, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies, takes readers inside the unknown history of fiercly partisan judicial nominations and explores reform proposals that could return the Supreme Court to its proper constitutional role. Confirmation battles over justices will only become more toxic and unhinged as long as the Court continues to ratify the excesses of the other two branches of government and the parties that control them. Only when the Court begins to rebalance constitutional order, curb administrative overreach, and return power back to the states will the bitter partisan war to control the judiciary finally end. 

30 review for Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America's Highest Court

  1. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Erspamer

    I devoured this book. Ilya does a wonderful job outlining a fascinating history of SCOTUS nominations. His writing is crisp, interesting, and incredibly readable. The stories are entertaining. The data is great. And the latter section of conclusions is terrific as well. Highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    A must read to understand the history of the Supreme Court and where we are today. Shapiro's writing is clear, concise, and factual. A very good history lesson. A must read to understand the history of the Supreme Court and where we are today. Shapiro's writing is clear, concise, and factual. A very good history lesson.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    This author is literally trying to justify Kavanaugh's rape as a political plot rather than the disgusting act it was. Ridiculous. Your book will sink like the rest of the base you're trying to appease and where your integrity has gone. This author is literally trying to justify Kavanaugh's rape as a political plot rather than the disgusting act it was. Ridiculous. Your book will sink like the rest of the base you're trying to appease and where your integrity has gone.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark O'mara

    An excellent history of Supreme Court nominations and the surrounding issues. Grounded in fact a clear understanding of the role of the Supreme Court and the cornerstone importance in the Republic, in a democracy, of the separation of powers and what that means.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Collin Coffee

    Certainly a timely release as the issues it discusses reach fever pitch in the election of 2020. Shapiro writes from a conservative judicial and political perspective but is largely evenhanded in his estimation of the history of Supreme Court appointments and their political realities. A fascinating read and one that earnestly wrestles with the problems facing our highest court and the proposed constitutional reform measures being considered. I recommend it. Makes my next read by David French on Certainly a timely release as the issues it discusses reach fever pitch in the election of 2020. Shapiro writes from a conservative judicial and political perspective but is largely evenhanded in his estimation of the history of Supreme Court appointments and their political realities. A fascinating read and one that earnestly wrestles with the problems facing our highest court and the proposed constitutional reform measures being considered. I recommend it. Makes my next read by David French on our secession threat all the more interesting.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Very helpful historical survey of the process of judicial nomination, and why we have reached such a polarized time with recent nominations.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Des

    Clear, concise, and accessible take on a very important topic.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Brown

    Read this in a weekend - Ilya does a fine job in keeping a dry subject digestible - similar to other works on the subject ( most noticeably Mark R Levin a good 2 decades ago ) does not take enough of a bite at Senators who mistreated Judge K in my opinion - fairer minded than I can manage to be in the here & now.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Our confirmation battles are ugly and filled with half-truths and distortions. Those half-truths and distortions particularly get wrong the actual history of our judicial battles since ratification. I’m indebted to Ilya for putting together this consummate corrective and reference material for the real story of that history.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ejpoleii

    Thorough but readable An excellent insight into the history and issues behind the structure of the Supreme Court. Well documented in footnotes for the detail oriented.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    An excellent history of judicial nominations and a good analysis of the state of play today.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    Wow. What a fascinating book about the history of SCOTUS nominations, every single one since George Washington! “(Earl) Warren...believed that vindicating the Constitution’s moral principles as he saw them was more important than doctrinal clarity or textual faithfulness.” -p. 78 “Justice Marshall once described his legal philosophy as: ‘You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.’” -p. 89 Clarence Thomas after being falsely accused: “This is a circus. It’s a national disgrace. And fro Wow. What a fascinating book about the history of SCOTUS nominations, every single one since George Washington! “(Earl) Warren...believed that vindicating the Constitution’s moral principles as he saw them was more important than doctrinal clarity or textual faithfulness.” -p. 78 “Justice Marshall once described his legal philosophy as: ‘You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.’” -p. 89 Clarence Thomas after being falsely accused: “This is a circus. It’s a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree.” -pp. 169-70 Obama was “one of the most polarizing presidents in American history who, especially in his second term, thought that when Congress didn’t act, he got to enact his agenda regardless’ -p. 228 “We also had the flip side of the expansion of powers: the warping of rights. In 1938, the infamous Footnote Four in the Carolene Products case bifurcated our rights such that certain rights are more equal than others in a kind of Animal Farm approach to the Constitution. So it’s the New Deal Court that politicized the Constitution, and thus also the confirmation process, by laying the foundation for judicial mischief of every stripe-- but particularly letting laws sail through that should be invalidated. The Warren Court picked up that baton by rewriting laws in areas that are best left to the political branches, micro-managing cultural disputes in a way that made the justices into philosopher kings, elevating and sharpening society’s ideological tensions.” -pp. 280-1 “The only way judicial nominations will be detoxified...is for the Supreme Court to restore our constitutional order by returning improperly amassed federal power to the states; securing all of our rights, enumerated and unenumerated alike; and forcing Congress to legislate on the remaining truly national issues rather than delegating that legislative power to executive-branch agencies.” -p. 309 “In the end, the only measure of the Court’s legitimacy that matters is the extent wot which it gets the law right and applies it correctly...sometimes justices seem to make decisions not based on their legal principles but for strategic purposes. The public can see through that; it’s when justices think about ‘legitimacy’ and try to avoid political controversy that they act most illegitimately.” -pp. 326-7 “Congress and the presidency have gradually taken more power for themselves, and the Supreme Court has allowed them to get away with it, aggrandizing itself in the process. As the Court has let both the legislative and executive branches swell beyond their constitutionally authorized powers, so have the laws and regulations that it now interprets.” -pp. 329-30 “But the judicial debates we’ve seen the last few decades were never really about the nominees themselves-- just like the proposals for court-packing and the like aren’t about ‘good government.’ They’re about the direction of the Court. The left in particular needs its social and regulatory agendas, as promulgated by the executive branch, to get through the judiciary, because they would never pass as legislation at the national level. That’s why progressive forces pull out all the stops against originalist nominees who would enforce limits on federal power.” -p. 332 “The only lasting solution to what ails our body juridic is to return to the Founders’ Constitution by rebalancing and devolving power, so Washington isn’t making so many big decisions for the whole country. Depoliticizing the judiciary and toning down our confirmation process is a laudable goal, but that’ll happen only when judges go back to judging rather than bending over backwards to ratify the constitutional abuses of the other branches.” -p. 333 “Let federal legislators make the hard calls about truly national issues like defense or (actually) interstate (actual) commerce, but let states and localities make most of the decisions that affect our daily lives...That’s the only way we’re going to defuse tensions in Washington.” -p. 334

  13. 5 out of 5

    Urey Patrick

    Just a marvelous work of history and analysis - legal and political. Shapiro relates the history of Supreme Court nominations from Washington on, examining the legal ramifications of appointments, the political impetuses of appointments, and the evolution of the process culminating in the current travesties. He is incisive, often humorous and a sophisticated and well versed analyst of legal and political events. Basically, we are where we are because Congress has shirked its legislative responsi Just a marvelous work of history and analysis - legal and political. Shapiro relates the history of Supreme Court nominations from Washington on, examining the legal ramifications of appointments, the political impetuses of appointments, and the evolution of the process culminating in the current travesties. He is incisive, often humorous and a sophisticated and well versed analyst of legal and political events. Basically, we are where we are because Congress has shirked its legislative responsibility to manage and supervise the mechanics of governance, devolving power to administrative agencies and the executive and thus necessitating courts to interpret and administer laws to an extent unforeseen by our founders. Shapiro looks at, and analyzes, nominations, judges, legal effects and political concerns from the Founding, through the Civil War, the onset of progressivism (requiring judicial deferment to central government) initially with Teddy Roosevelt and then with a vengeance under Wilson then FDR and the New Deal years and the later excesses of the Warren Court. The modern era essentially began in 1968 with the Bork nomination. Shapiro dissects the Bork nomination fairly and objectively - there were mistakes, fault and blame of varying degrees and differing magnitude on both sides, but the character assassination of Judge Bork was unprecedented, at least in 1968. It was a harbinger of worse to come (Thomas, Kavanaugh) and Shapiro examines each in some detail. Shapiro is a deft and perceptive observer with a gift for clear, compelling writing. Ultimately, he examines and discusses the various solutions that have been increasingly bandied about, such as term limits, court packing, etc with an excellent and objective presentation of their assorted strengths and weaknesses. The only real solution, as he makes abundantly clear, is the revitalization of Congress, of course, and a judicial system intent upon preserving individual liberty against the increasing encroachment of government. Let's hope that happens. Meanwhile, this is a worthwhile, indeed necessary, book - enjoyable, educational and compelling.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    This starts as a history of US Supreme Court nominations, and ends with the author's recommendations in light of that history. The author's a libertarian-leaning-conservative law professor from the Volokh Conspiracy law blog, and his political leanings show in both sections. I didn't mind it as such - though I thought his recounting of the Gorsuch and Kavanaugh nominations (the book was published before the Barrett nomination) would've benefited from more interaction with the opposing perspectiv This starts as a history of US Supreme Court nominations, and ends with the author's recommendations in light of that history. The author's a libertarian-leaning-conservative law professor from the Volokh Conspiracy law blog, and his political leanings show in both sections. I didn't mind it as such - though I thought his recounting of the Gorsuch and Kavanaugh nominations (the book was published before the Barrett nomination) would've benefited from more interaction with the opposing perspective. I generally agree with his recommendations, including (sadly) his observation that nominations won't become uncontroversial until the Supreme Court becomes less powerful in modern politics - which probably means a less powerful federal government. But, how are we to dismantle the modern administrative state and return power to the states? Or, how are we to get both political factions to agree on one general interpretation of the Constitution? And, until we accomplish these goals, what shall we do about the Supreme Court we have now? These questions would probably take another book - but Shapiro's book leaves me wanting that book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mary Flynn

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Matous

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  18. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  19. 5 out of 5

    Leif

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karen Roth

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris Beer

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Norris

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christian

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael Carbonaro

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Rogg

  27. 4 out of 5

    James Ruley

  28. 4 out of 5

    John

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lucianna Wolfstone

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Palmer

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