Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court

Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court

by Jan Crawford Greenburg


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The New York Times bestselling account of the most consequential shift in the use of American judicial power in almost one hundred years

Drawing on unprecedented access to the Supreme Court justices themselves and their inner circles, acclaimed ABC News legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg offers an explosive newsbreaking account of one of the most momentous political watersheds in American history. From the series of Republican nominations that proved deeply frustrating to conservatives to the decades of bruising battles that led to the rise of Justices Roberts and Alito, this is the authoritative story of the conservative effort to shift the direction of the high court—a revelatory look at one of the central fronts of America's culture wars by one of the most widely respected experts on the subject.

"A fresh and detailed account of how the court works and, relatedly, how presidents decide who gets there. . . . A tour de force." -The Wall Street Journal

"A fascinating look at dynamics within the court, showing how personalities and ideology can affect alliances and debates." -Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143113041
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/29/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 528,936
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent and contributes regularly to the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley," "CBS This Morning," and "Face The Nation," as well as CBS Radio News and

Table of Contents

Prologue     1
Day's End     7
Settling for Tony     35
False Hopes     65
The Devil You Don't     87
"The Youngest, Cruelest Justice"     109
Change of Heart     139
The Clinton Way     165
The Natural     185
"Except He's Not a Woman"     213
"Trust Me"     237
Deconstructing Miers     263
A Full Count     285
Afterword     317
Acknowledgments     331
Notes     335
Index     345

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The richest and most impressive journalistic look at the [Supreme Court] since Woodward co- wrote The Brethren in 1979."
-Los Angeles Times

"A fascinating look at dynamics within the court, showing how personalities and ideology can affect alliances and debates."
-Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"More than any recent writer on the Court, [Jan Crawford Greenburg] seems to have mastered the arts of Kremlinology that are necessary to appreciate what goes on in this secretive institution. . . . Fascinating."
-The New York Review of Books

"A genuinely spectacular feat of reporting."
-The New Republic

"A fresh and detailed account of how the court works and, relatedly, how presidents decide who gets there. . . . A tour de force."
-The Wall Street Journal

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Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed it. Like the previous reviewer, I was concerned about the author being an ABC correspondent and if the account would be bias. It was not. I thought it was fair and balanced. I learned a lot and also how Presidents can make some real errors in judgement when it comes to nominations. Not real heavy and it reads like a novel. Enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A book about the Supreme Court is not usually one of those books you pick up and just can't put down but this is the exception to the rule. Jan Crawford Greenburg has written a book that takes you inside the secretive chambers of this mysterious institution. I would recommend this book to everyone, even if you are not a non-fiction political buff! As I said in my heading this book is informative, educational and the cherry on top is it reads like a suspense novel!
Guest More than 1 year ago
You know the last book I thought I''d read is a non-fiction account of the Supreme Court, yet, here I am writing a review, regarding same. Go figure! If the Supreme Court is of modest interest to you, you should invest the time and read it. Don''t be fooled by the fact that Ms. Crawford-Greenburg works for ABC News. Her account is balanced impartial, and suprisingly (at least for me), more than fair. It pushes no agendas, and indeed takes the readers behind the curtains, inside the Chambers, and in some instances, the very homes of our highest Court justices. More interesting for me is the Judicial Appointment process and how the White House and, to a lesser extent, the Senate, play the process to drive their own agendas. Lastly, this book does not bog down the reader with incessant griping on cases, political choosing of sides per se, etc. Rather, it gives the reader a more personal view of the Associate Justices and Chief Justice, in a manageable 350 pages.I''d suggest the publisher offer an excerpt to allow the reader to sample the content. Take the time to read it, you won''t be disappointed.
emmylee04 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought this book provided a great look into the politics and personalities of the US Supreme Court. Despite my chosen profession, I rarely get into books about the Supreme Court or law, but I found this book to be a truly interesting read. It was almost gossip-y at points(who knew Sandra Day hated Clarence or loved Rehnquist?), but did more to provide a personality for each Justice than anything I had read before. I wish I had read this before law school - it would have provided some real color to all of those awful red casebooks. I definitely recommend it.
jclark88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was afraid this book would be stuffy and one sided so I began reading it with a bit of trepidation. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the author was able to tell the inside story of the struggle for control of the Supreme Court without crossing the line between story teller and political mouthpiece. I was surprised by how interested I was and by how much I ended up enjoying the book.
leoklein on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book should really be called, "Conservatives Take Over Supreme Court -- In Their Own Words". The author shows no interest or even awareness of other points of view.Her description of the Bork/Ginsburg nomination fiasco comes almost directly from members of the Reagan Administration with absolutely no other interpretation or context.Her (completely inadequate) treatment of Justice Thomas as someone who's just been "misunderstood" -- otherwise totally ignoring the truly radical nature of his judicial perspective is yet another glaring example. Her description of the Alito nomination reads like an abbreviated soap-opera pitting "folksy" Samuel against the "openly hostile" Democratic Senators.The book ends on a paean to George W. Bush who the author attributes as the mastermind of this judicial lurch to the right.There literally is no other point of view or perspective. Democrats or liberal groups are no where to be seen -- other than in fleeting one-liners about "interest groups". Even the Clinton Administration which lasted two terms and saw two nominees to the Supreme Court merits a measly 18 pages.Instead what we get are detailed interviews with people from the Federalist Society, etc., with zero context as to where these groups fit on the political spectrum.The author uncritically accepts the conservatives on their own terms, repeating ad nauseum their desire for "judicial restraint" and original intent as if no other, perhaps less flattering, interpretation existed.I appreciate the perspective of all sides on these issues (even if I don't agree with them) but we really need an author who's a bit more honest in describing political context. To reduce everything to cat-fights and personality clashes -- as this book does -- borders on flagrant deception.
LiteraryLinda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was interesting learning about the Supreme Court and how the justices are chosen and a little bit about the history.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book to introduce people to the complexities of the Supreme Court. Greenburg, a reporter for ABC News with a law degree, has written one of the most objective books I've read... and I don't much believe anyone is objective. The book covers the court from the mid-80s or so, and the confirmations of Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy. Both were disappointments to social conservatives, who were hoping for Roe v. Wade and affirmative action to be overturned. Both started out as fairly reliably conservative, but O'Connor began drifting left in response to Clarence Thomas and his aggressive early stances on the Court. Kennedy, the author believes, drifted left in part in response to public opinion. Neither had a firm judicial philosophy, preferring to take a case-by-case approach. The judicial conservatives believed in interpreting law not making it, while the liberals believed in an evolving Constitution and the ability of judges to affect social issues.At least those are the theories. One of the things that comes across most clearly is that laws, like anything written by humans, are subject to interpretation, and that the range of possible interpretations is broad. After all, if there were no disagreements on interpretation there wouldn't be a requirement for so many judges. Well-meaning and competent people can, and do, differ as to what laws mean and whether their meaning evolves over time.Greenburg also gives a picture of the personalities of each judge. They are a diverse group. Roberts and Alito, the newest members, are what those on the right have been seeking for years, reliably conservative, but both are well-qualified and work well with others. They are of an age to sit on the bench for years to come.Excellent book, a worthwhile read.
bezoar44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fast paced and well-informed survey of Republican presidents' (ultimately successful) efforts to turn the U.S. Supreme Court in a conservative direction, culminating in the confirmation of John Roberts as Chief Justice and Samuel Alito as an Associate Justice in 2006. Greenburg focuses on the appointment process and the way new justices' personalities (perhaps more than their politics) shape the evolving positions of sitting justices. The end of the history leaves the reader with the understanding that, because Roberts and Alito are both likeable and unassuming, they are likely to attract rather than repel the Court's key remaining swing vote: Anthony Kennedy. That gives conservatives a 5-4 majority on crucial decisions. However, the real value of this book is not its look forward (from five years ago, and increasingly obsolete), but its careful account of how several administrations chose their nominees, and with what results. Greenburg spends relatively little time on jurisprudence or individual cases, including them only as context for the interpersonal dynamics shaping the Court's balance. She tends not to introduce even basic information about how the Court operates until it is absolutely necessary for her story. For example, she barely mentions the Chief's power to assign cases to justices until late in the book, when she is describing the personality traits that would make John Roberts an effective Chief Justice. Greenburg seems to have had amazing access to justices, clerks, Congressional staff, and Administration officials. Two perspectives she offered were new to me: that in his early years on the Court, Justice Clarence Thomas led Antonin Scalia, rather than the other way around, notwithstanding his depiction in the media; and that across the political spectrum, the interest groups who support or oppose nominations have often completely missed the boat on nominees. The writing is fluid, with one off-putting idiosyncrasy. Greenburg repeats some pieces of information several times - for example, that conservatives regarded George H.W. Bush's appointment of David Souter as a terrible disaster -- yet each time presents the fact or interpretation as though it is new. I suspect that the chapters were written as polished units, then assembled, and an editor neglected to smooth the joints or insert cross-references. But the effect is like having a conservation with a flesh and blood friend who keeps telling you the same stories, without saying anything like, 'you remember I said...'. Each time, the reader gets briefly distracted, trying to figure out whether this is really new information, or is in fact rehashing material from earlier chapters. Shortly after Supreme Conflict came out, Jeffrey Toobin published The Nine, covering the internal dynamics of the Court over much of the same time period. I haven't read the Nine and so am not sure how the two books compare.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
eReader911 More than 1 year ago
I recommend this to anybody interested in the Supreme Court.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago