Monday, August 7, 2017

Out of Order

Book 45 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from July 15 - 27

Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court by Sandra Day O'Connor

Summary (via Goodreads)
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 v. Madison to modern-day cases such as Hamdi v. 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 from one of our country's most important institutions, from one of our country's most respected pioneers. 

My Opinion
I thought the book was fine but this felt like it could've been written by anyone who researched the Supreme Court.  I was expecting personal anecdotes and "behind-the scenes" type information and was disappointed when that wasn't the case (ha, unintentional court pun).  The book also ended very abruptly.

Here are some "fun facts" I learned:

  • William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, and Jimmy Carter are the only presidents that didn't have the opportunity to appoint a Justice during their time in office.
  • The current Supreme Court building was finished in 1935 and the first words said in the courtroom were, "Are there any admissions?", by Chief Justice Charles Evan Hughes.
  • The Justices have assigned seats in their dining room and each Justice sits in the same place that the Justice he or she replaced had sat during his/her term.
  • Justice William O. Douglas became the first Justice to divorce his wife in 1951.  He also divorced his second wife in 1963 and his third wife in 1966.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"The Supreme Court is only as effective as people think it is."

"The Supreme Court is a tradition-bound institution - and its many traditions shape both the Court's day-to-day operations and its broader role in our society."

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