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The History of the Supreme Court Lecture

The History of the Supreme Court

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Publisher's Summary

For more than two centuries, the Supreme Court has exerted extraordinary influence over the way we live our daily lives. The Court has defined the boundaries of our speech and actions since its first meeting in 1790, adding to our history books names such as John Marshall, Louis Brandeis, Hugo Black, Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall, Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and many others.

Have you ever wondered what goes into shaping the Court's decisions - or the beliefs of its justices? Or how the nine justices blend divergent and often strongly conflicting philosophies to reach decisions that reflect consensus - or sometimes fail to? How even a single change in the Court's personnel can dramatically alter not only the Court's ideological balance but its cooperative chemistry, as well? Or what it actually sounded like in the Court as some of the most important cases in our history were argued? This series of 36 clear and insightful lectures - delivered by an award-winning teacher and widely respected authority on the Supreme Court - answers these questions and many more as it traces the development of the Court from a body having little power or prestige to its current status as, "the most powerful and prestigious judicial institution in the world."

The lectures are rich in biographical snapshots of not only the justices but also the advocates who have stood before them and the dozens of ordinary men and women whose cases have reached the Court. Several historical recordings are also highlighted, giving you a front-row seat as you hear lawyers actually arguing before the Court, as well as the justices' replies.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2003 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2003 The Great Courses

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  •  
    Amazon Customer 02-07-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Every US citizen should listen to this book."

    The Supreme Court distills the morals and values of the American culture into a filter that screens out laws, for better or worse, deemed ill-suited for the American public. Every American would do well to understand the historic strengths and weaknesses of this institution. This book is a great tool in setting a foundation for that understanding.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill Martin Florida 02-26-15
    Bill Martin Florida 02-26-15 Member Since 2016

    Bill Martin

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    "Professor's Bias Does Not Detract"

    Though I've enjoyed quite a few TGC courses, this is the first time I have listened through a lecture series packaged as a "book" on Audible. The unity of the course was probably enhanced by the platform. which formatted the individual lectures as chapters. The only downside was having no access to the course notes. (The Teaching Company does not normally provide them a la carte.) This course surveys the Supreme Court as a living institution from its beginnings until the beginning of the 21st century. (The course is copyrighted 2003.) Dr. Peter Irons is an unquestionably qualified guide to the subject, having both written and taught on the Supreme Court from the perspective of a lawyer who belongs to its bar.

    Speaking of perspective, Irons admits his filter at the beginning of the course and several times where his narrative pertains to issues that reveal his bias. His career in civil liberties law has clearly shaped his thinking. And although I would differ with Dr. Irons politically and ideologically on several points, I did not feel his stance took away from the quality or content of the course in the slightest. The unique point of view of a scholar (who knows how to be dispassionate and objective) who also has spent his career in the field of practice, passionately arguing for his convictions, opens an aware listener's mind to a deeper, richer experience of the subject. I disagree with reviews that downgrade the course because of Irons's bias.

    The content of the course focuses on key members of the court and key cases which support the theme: individual liberty in tension with the power of the state. For me, it was an entry into a facet of civil government and American history long obscured by educational emphasis on the legislative and executive branches. As a member of a church that maintains "courts," I found the overlapping applications fertile and fascinating.

    One more item worth mentioning: an advantage of this audio presentation is the several examples of actual Supreme Court proceedings--short samples of the voices of individual justices or oral arguments. I found that fascinating. One could only wish more recent pieces were added in an updated version.

    I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in law, history, civil rights or political studies.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jan 07-25-15
    Jan 07-25-15
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    "Ends too soon"

    I was disappointed that it ends at about the year 2000. But that's my only complaint. Very interesting and engaging. Easy to listen to, easy to understand. Enjoyable.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    GEORGE Waverly, OH, United States 09-22-13
    GEORGE Waverly, OH, United States 09-22-13 Member Since 2011

    Hobby- Military History Occupation- Retired Commander USN; Retired Director of Quality Assurance; Graduate Liberty University, Lynchburg VA; Residence-Waverly Ohio

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    "Great Lecture Series !"

    I stumbled upon this collection of lectures while reading a book about Roosevelt's court packing plan. In my opinion this is a very good series of lectures for use by a layman that is looking to increase his/her knowledge of Supreme Court History. While watching confirmation hearings for Court Justices in the past, I found my lack of knowledge pertaining to major decisions rendered by the Court in the last 100 years bothersome. These lectures helped me address that weakness. The material is presented in a manner that allows an individual a laymen to gain a general understanding of the workings of the Court, and the basis for many of the major decisions in recent history.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 07-27-16
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 07-27-16 Member Since 2016

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

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    "Engrossing"

    This is a lecture series from the Great Courses that Audible provides. I normally obtain the video lectures via the Teaching Company but some courses work very well as an audio lecture such as this one. The professor for this course on the History of the Supreme Court is Peter Irons. He was a law professor at the University of California San Diego; he also taught political science.

    The course format is 36 lectures of 30 minutes each. Professor Irons covers the formation of the Court up to the date of the course in 2001. Professor Irons covers key decisions of the Court and constitutional law. The author also discusses some of the key decisions and Chief Justices over the years. Professor Irons provides more information on John Marshall the 2nd Chief Justice, Chief Justice Roger Taney and Civil War Amendments. He also discusses the effects of Oliver Wendell-Holmes and Louis Brandeis on the Court. He covers Chief Justice William Howard Taft, the former President of the United States, who was appointed to the Court after he finished the office of the President. He also covers the New Deal, the cold war, Civil Rights and the appointment of Thurgood Marshall the first black on the Court. Sandra Day O’Connor the first women appointed to the Court.

    The last Chief Justice appointed by a Democrat President was Frederick Moore Vinson (1890-1953) appointed by President Harry Truman in 1946. At that time the Court was divided by two opposing justices, Hugo Black and Felix Frankfurter. Vinson died suddenly of a heart attack in 1953. From 1953 to date, the Court has had a Chief Justice appointed by a Republican President. Irons goes on to review the all Republican appointed Chief Justices: Earl Warren, Warren Burger, and William Rehnquist. The course ends before the appointment of Roberts by President Bush.

    The Professor did an excellent job presenting the course. The course was meticulously researched and presented. This is presented as a university course. I learned a great deal about the Court for reading this course. Over the last few years I have been reading biographies of the Supreme Court Justices and I was amazed at how much I have learned. The course provides a concise review of the Court for easy learning.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric R. Mortensen Philadelphia 05-16-16
    Eric R. Mortensen Philadelphia 05-16-16 Member Since 2015

    Dog lover

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    "Entry level education to debates on American law"

    My understanding of the history of American law and the civil rights struggle was dramatically informed by an understanding of the men and women that has sat on the cost and the context of the time in which they lived. I also found a greater justification for my opinions differing with court justices that I felt had departed from the objectives exposed by the founders in the Federalist Papers. An excellent read.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 09-18-16
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 09-18-16 Member Since 2012

    Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always."

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    "I've given 3 friends a copy of this. So far."

    My standards for books and courses on the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) might be a tad high. I am an Army veteran, and I have been a lawyer for a couple of decades. Constitutional Law is a mandatory 1L year long course. I am admitted to the SCOTUS bar, although I've never had the occasion and probably never will. Professor Peter Irons' The Great Courses lecture series "History of the Supreme Court" (2003) exceeded my expectations.

    A couple of things to know: there's a 193 page PDF that comes with the Audible that has a detailed Table of Contents and an outline for every lecture. The actual text of the SCOTUS decisions, which are probably more than 10,000 pages long, are available at supremecourt dot gov. The Audible edition had both parts I and II of The Great Courses lectures. This was published in 2003, before Chief Justice John Roberts and culture changing decisions such as Obergefell v Hodges (2015) 576 US -- which established the right for same sex couples to wed.

    Irons' lectures are important because they place SCOTUS decisions in historical and personal context; and because sometimes, they reveal the moral failings of the appointed-for-life justices. For example, Pleasy v Ferguson (1896) 163 US 537 upheld the doctrine of "separate but equal" for minorities and is one of the most notoriously unfair and (now) unconstitutional decisions. Irons discusses how that decision happened, and why it was nearly unanimous. Irons traces the 60 years work it took by organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to have Plessy overruled in Brown v Board of Education (1954) 347 US 483. How Plessy came to be always mystified me, and now I know. It's an ugly story of unbridled prejudice and racial hatred, but understanding how it happened is important.

    Irons addresses other important decisions, of course, like Roe v Wade (1973) 410 US 113, upholding a woman's right to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy; and lesser known opinions that have shaped American laws and culture. In some of the lectures on later decisions actually include audio of the SCOTUS arguments. Complete oral arguments are also available at supremecourt dot gov - although listening to attorneys getting skewered by cranky Associate Justices is cringeworthy.

    Colin Kaepernick and a handful of "like and share if you agree" memes about requiring the Pledge of Allegiance in Florida public schools are why I've been sending copies of this course to friends. Kaepernick, currently a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, has been kneeling during the National Anthem as a protest against law enforcement treatment of Blacks. Kaepernick doesn't have to stand and students don't have to pledge, as Irons explains in Lecture Seventeen, "Beyond the Reach of The Majorities", discussing West Virginia v Barnette (1943) 319 US 624. Irons actually interviewed the Jehovah's Witnesses who refused to pledge to an object (the flag) and how it resulted in Barnette, affected their lives. Florida recently passed a law requiring that school districts let their students know they don't have to stand during the pledge - more than 70 years after the decision - and folks didn't like it. Irons sure does a better job explaining the law than I can in 140 characters.

    Irons, fortunately, leaves out the mundane - the Supreme Court hears a lot of tax court which are important to only a few.

    [If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L.D. 04-21-16
    L.D. 04-21-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Thought provoking & intriguing!"

    This lecture series is a must-have for anybody interested in the history of our Supreme Court. Whether you have an interest in the law, the judiciary, or even just history in general, this series is for you. I just finished listening to it and am about to start it again.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 02-06-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Perfect"

    I have about 20 downloads from audible and this is by far the best one so far.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Osvaldo 07-15-16
    Osvaldo 07-15-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Fascinating"

    While I didn't agree with every opinion expressed by the author, I can say that his reasoning was always sound and fair. I highly recommend this book, it is extremely interesting. It really does show how the Supreme Court has shaped our society.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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