American Justice 2016
The Political Supreme Court
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
188 pages, 140.00 x 216.00 x 0.00 mm
- ISBN: 9780812248906
- Published: October 2016
When the Democrat-appointed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg criticized Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, she triggered concerns about judicial ethics. But the political concerns were even more serious. The Supreme Court is supposed to be what Alexander Hamilton called "the least dangerous" branch of government, because it is the least political. Justices have lifetime appointments to ensure their "complete independence" when deciding cases and controversies. But in the Roberts Court's most contested and important rulings, it has divided along partisan lines for the first time in American history: Republican presidents appointed the conservatives, Democrats appointed the liberals. Justice Ginsburg's criticisms suggested that partisan politics drive the Court's most profound disagreements. Well-respected political science supports that view.
Has this partisan turn made the Court less independent and less trustworthy than the nation requires? The term ending in 2016 included more decisions and developments in almost fifty years for analyzing this question. Among them were major cases about abortion rights, the death penalty, immigration, and other wedge issues, as well as the death of Justice Antonin G. Scalia, leaving the Court evenly divided between conservatives and liberals. Legal journalist Lincoln Caplan dissects the recent term, puts it in historical context, and recommends ways to strengthen trust in the Supreme Court as the pinnacle of the American constitutional system.
1. The Immigration Case
2. A Political Institution
3. Law and Politics
4. October Term 2015
5. The Death Penalty
6. Citizens and the Court
Appendix: Biographies of Current Justices of the Supreme Court
"Lincoln Caplan proves once again why he is one of our most indispensable observers of the Supreme Court. In American Justice 2016, he helps us make sense of one of the most peculiar and pivotal Supreme Court terms in modern history—a term that began with nine justices on the bench, ended with eight, and was embroiled throughout in partisan politics. Caplan, as ever, brings insight and clarity to a complex picture."—Jeff Shesol, author of Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court
"Lincoln Caplan has an unmatched ability to communicate complicated legal concepts in lucid, engaging, even dazzling prose. Here he incisively analyzes some of today's most contentious constitutional questions, deftly excavating the historical underpinnings of the disputes and distilling how insights from legal academia have transformed our understanding of the modern judiciary. This work is a splendid achievement."—Justin Driver, University of Chicago Law School
"This is a lucid, readable and deeply thoughtful book that begins with the widespread recognition that the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court has been increasingly threatened by the Court's politicization. Lincoln Caplan's willingness to explore not only how we got here, but what we should do, guarantees that this book will be the centerpiece of important discussions."—Scott Turow, New York Times-bestselling author
"A timely, essential primer on Supreme Court questions both perennial and urgent. Lincoln Caplan nails this deadlocked moment, puts the question of politics and the Court in succinct historical context, draws wicked character sketches, and proposes specific reforms to bolster the Court's legitimacy."—William Finnegan, Pulitzer Prize-winner and author of Barbarian Days and Cold New World
"Lincoln Caplan has written a timely, thoughtful, and elegant book. At a moment in our nation's history when the Supreme Court stands at the epicenter of some of the most contentious issues of our time, Caplan brilliantly captures the challenges facing the institution. His succinct suggestions for addressing these challenges reflect his devotion to the constitutional principles that have long made ours a great nation. Every citizen should read this book."—Margaret H. Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts, 1999-2010
"In this masterful analysis of the Supreme Court's 2015 term, Lincoln Caplan persuasively argues that there is no good reason to deny that the Court is a deeply political institution—and that, with the right reforms, there is every reason to celebrate that fact."—Paul Glastris, Washington Monthly