From Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court, comes this fascinating book about the history and evolution of the highest court in the land.
Out of Order sheds light on the centuries of change and upheaval that transformed the Supreme Court from its uncertain beginnings into the remarkable institution that thrives and endures today. From the early days of circuit-riding, when justices who also served as trial judges traveled thousands of miles per year on horseback to hear cases, to the changes in civil rights ushered in by Earl Warren and Thurgood Marshall; from foundational decisions such as Marbury vs. Madison to modern-day cases such as Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld, Justice O’Connor weaves together stories and lessons from the history of the Court, charting turning points and pivotal moments that have helped define our nation’s progress.
With unparalleled insight and her unique perspective as a history-making figure, Justice O’Connor takes us on a personal exploration, painting vivid pictures of Justices in history, including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., one of the greatest jurists of all time; Thurgood Marshall, whose understated and succinct style would come to transform oral argument; William O. Douglas, called "The Lone Ranger" because of his impassioned and frequent dissents; and John Roberts, whom Justice O’Connor considers to be the finest practitioner of oral argument she has ever witnessed in Court. We get a rare glimpse into the Supreme Court’s inner workings: how cases are chosen for hearing; the personal relationships that exist among the Justices; and the customs and traditions, both public and private, that bind one generation of jurists to the next - from the seating arrangements at Court lunches to the fiercely competitive basketball games played in the Court Building’s top-floor gymnasium, the so-called "highest court in the land".
Wise, candid, and assured, Out of Order is a rich offering of inspiring stories of one of our country’s most important institutions, from one of our country’s most respected pioneers.
Right up Front, Justice O’Connor informs you that her book is a celebration of the Supreme Court and its history. This is not a tell-all book or a behind the scenes justification of her record either positive or negative. She introduces the court in a way one might talk about a beloved Uncle to a group of friends who you have never met. She has divided the book into sections of interest: the early years, silver tongued devils, presidential clashes, etc.
I like that she personally narrates the book. It lends a great amount of authenticity. I have read numerous historical novels that touch on many of the points she makes. John Adams by David McCullough, What Kind if Nation by Simon F. Simon and Truman and 1776 by McCullough, Thomas Jefferson by Joyce Appley and Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow – all fine works. Justice O’Connor’s accounts fit nicely with overlapping accounts by these historians. Yet, she introduces new information about the court and it struggles over the centuries.
If you have an interest in the Supreme Court, history, or government; this is a very worthwhile seven hours. If you are looking for dissention or scuttlebutt, look somewhere else.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful
Sandra Day O'Connor reads her own book which in a way adds more to the book. The books chapter are dividend into topic relating to the court. O'Connor chose items that had a major effect on the future course of the court. Such as how the appointment of John Jay as the first Chief Justice effected the court and without him the court may become insignificant. She also told stories about key justices that had major effects good or bad on the court as well as court cases that add to the role or power of the court such as Marbury vs Madison. She told about the justices that were the first like her being the first women, Thurgood Marshall, the first black and L. Brandeis, the first Jewish justice and so. She also pointed out that not all justice were good such as McReynolds who was of the old fashion white southern gentelman. She said he led the court in the most descents and was a races and anti semite and was against every bill FDR put up for the new deal. I found the last section on what the justices did after retirement interesting. They service on the circuit courts and O'Connor rotates around the country serving on the various circuit courts. I also found it interesting what she pointed out about, that at times the dissenting opinion eventually became the law. Great to learn about the court from someone who was on the inside and could provide that little extra insight.
12 of 14 people found this review helpful
This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?
Had not this book been by Sandra Day O'Connor, it would never have been published. I guess Supreme Court history buffs will find some interesting tidbits. Her Honor doesn't tip her hand much and offer personal insights or opinions. Just a very dry retelling of historical anecdotes.
What do you think your next listen will be?
Wilkie Collins' "Woman in White"
What didn’t you like about Sandra Day O'Connor’s performance?
Her voice was monotonous and had a squeaky timbre. Reminded me of some of my old primary school teachers.
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Out of Order?
Few of the anecdotes that comprise this book are very amusing, revelatory or interesting.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This book is full of tidbits. Lots of short stories, easy reading with good humor. It is not a bad book, but it is not a good one either. There isn't anything linking this book together. The chapters could be read randomly and the listener wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Chapter titles are things like 'Supreme Court firsts' and 'Customs and traditions of the Court'. These are topics that really could be interesting, but somewhere along the way they just turn into a really long list. The anecdotes here would certainly be found in a good book on the history of the supreme court, but this book is not it.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
I was determined to listen to “Out of Order” as soon as I saw Sandra Day O’Connor interviewed on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show”. I interrupted the book I was listening to when this came out, and I am glad that I did.
I was sworn into practice before the US Supreme Court five years ago (John Roberts was Chief Justice, and Justice O’Connor had already retired) and the experience was more moving than I ever expected. The grandeur of the building was intimidating, and the courtroom seemed heavy with hundreds of years of important lawmaking.
It was hard to imagine the US Supreme Court as anything but what it is now, but Justice O’Connor’s book discusses how it started out as a group of six men, in borrowed space in New York, making few but crucial rulings that established its authority as a co-equal branch of government based on what was a radical experiment – the US Constitution. She discusses key decisions throughout its 222-year history (it first convened in 1791, 2 years after the Constitution was ratified) in a way that points out the important findings, without getting tangled in minutia that would only be of interest to lawyers and constitutional scholars.
The book has some amusing stories, and a discussion of some “larger than life” Justices – although not all of the stories are about admirable Justices. At least one was loathsome.
This isn’t a tell-all book by any means. Anyone looking for a discussion of current personalities on the Supreme Court should read or listen to Jeffrey Toobin’s, “The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court."
Justice O’Connor narrates the book herself, and sometimes, charmingly, you can hear paper rattle as she turns a page. She does sound like a law professor from time to time, which does not make for an exciting narration – but there is no one else I would have wanted to listen to reading this book.
10 of 15 people found this review helpful
I really enjoyed Out of Order. Justice O'Connor explains how the Supreme Court works and its history. She was conversational and easy to listen to. I was slightly amused when she started a new chapter because instead of saying the chapter number, she would say "next chapter"! I also enjoyed the reading of the Declaration of Independence at the end of the book.
For those looking for second helping of O'Connor's "The Majesty of the Law" you will be disappointed. There are two important differences:
(1) Majesty was a discussion of the law and public policy. Out of Order is an introduction to the Supreme Court as an institution, and a particularly short introduction at that. Although some of the stories are interesting and even funny, on the whole the book reads more like a high school civics course than the work of a supreme court justice.
(2) Majesty was written for an educated audience. Out of Order was written for those with little or no understanding of the legal system or the functioning of the government. Now, the cynics among you may be snickering and thinking "well that's most of the population," and considering she may be trying to reach the broadest possible audience with this book, that may be a valid observation. But just a fair warning that the two books are written for different audiences.
In Short: if you are looking for an intellectually stimulating book and you have more than a cursory understanding of the Supreme Court, this book will offer you very little. For those completely ignorant of the Judicial Branch and its inner workings, this will be a good introduction.
Where does Out of Order rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Great storytelling by Justice O'connor. She brought to life stories about the history of the court and the court's justices that are not readily available in other histories of the court.
What about Sandra Day O'Connor’s performance did you like?
She is a great reader.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
I enjoyed the moment where she recounted the story of Justice Field. It was also interesting to hear the personal background and life stories on several of the justices.
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
Yes because the topic was interesting and novel.
I did find that it was not well edited however. There were some topics that were repeated in different parts of the book that seemed a bit out of place.
Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Sandra Day O'Connor?
YES--I love her speeches (she spoke at my law school graduation) but her voice was terrible for the narration. There were times when I heard papers rustling as she spoke.
I have listened to hundreds of books and I have a rule--unless it is a memoir, you should not read your own book unless you are a comedian (Adam Carolla) or a humorist (David Sedaris). They have irritating voices but they work with the material.
Do you think Out of Order needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
No, I think the material was adequately covered.
... Your book just wasn't that great. I wanted to like it, I really did, but let's face it, I really don't care about the exact wording of each oath that every single justice was sworn in with. I really don't care to hear a list of names of justices from the early 1800's that mean nothing to me. I was somewhat excited to get to the part about "humor from the bench"... but, well, it just wasn't even remotely funny.
I got this book because I had so much enjoyed The Oath. I wanted more.
You let me down, Sandy.
You are a great pioneer for women and I have always admired you, but.. you let me down.
For a while I felt an obligation to keep plowing through it, but after a while, I just couldn't.