This book is very interesting and offers a look into some important personalities in the Court's history. The premise of the book is that judges are more effective when they compromise their ideals to gain incremental changes and when they build rapport with other justices. This is defined as "judicial temperament" by the author.
Each judge's judicial temperament and effectiveness is profiled in comparison to a contemporary with an opposite temperament. The author veers from his course when discussing Justice Scalia, though.
Jefferson is presented as brilliant, but idealistic. Holmes is brilliant, but self-absorbed. Douglas is brilliant, but self-aggrandizing. Scalia, who is also brilliant, is presented is little more than an acerbic dogmatist with a biting wit.
More than any other justice profiled, the author attempts to evaluate the merits of Scalia's legal opinion - uniformly drawing on the opinions of those opposed to Scalia's jurisprudential philosophy.
Much is made of the Bush v. Gore case, for example. The author quotes Scalia's recital of the legal basis for an injunction - something not terribly exciting in the real world. Yet, it is presented as a prediction of the outcome of the vote count. "Scalia's prediction was wrong," the author chides.
The real-world inconsequence of Scalia's statement in the injunction and the overzealous attention paid to it by some are traceable directly back to political flamethrowers working for Gore, not to any legal scholar. There are several other examples of heavily-biased criticisms that are uncharacteristic for this book.
In the end, I felt that I had been set up - that the book's premise was really just a pretense to launch an assault on Scalia. The author stretches legal reasoning to make Scalia seem inconsistent on issues where he is steadfastly consistent.
I still enjoyed the book, but I could have done without the bias.
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