Friday, 19 February 2010
Packing the Court
I use the trains frequently - travelling between my home in Milton Keynes - and my academic work in Leicester for Leicester University; Birmingham for the Open University - and my three days a week working in the the House of Lords, London. One great advantage of using public transport is that I get some time to read or listen to audio books.
Over the last three weeks, ending yesterday, I have listened to the audiobook, "Packing the Court" by James MacGregor Burns. It is an excellent book - combining a thorough survey of the history of the Supreme Court with an argument against the Court's practice of 'Judicial Review'. The book highlights the political nature of the Supreme Court. Many Justices have been former politicians - and all have been nominated by Presidents and confirmed by the Senate - so many of the choices have been overtly party political. I thoroughly recommend the book to anyone wanting a good history of the Court and its justices (and American history generally). Its arguments are worth reflecting upon too - whether you are an American citizen - or a citizen or resident of another country. The issues of the role of the judiciary - and its relationship to democratically elected institutions - are relevant worldwide. In the United Kingdom - which its constitutional setup evolving quickly - it is of particular importance to reflect upon these themes.
There is an excellent review from the New York Times accessible here.
Details of the book (in many forms) from the publisher are available here.