Monday, June 3, 2013

"Out of Order" by Sandra Day O'Connor (2013)

The most remarkable thing about this book is that it has never been written before; but then again, we never had a Supreme Court Justice like Sandra O’Connor before either. An accomplished author, the Honorable Justice has taken all of the tales about the Supreme Court; its history, it’s members, it’s legends and tall tales; and place them all in one book.

With the same style and dry sense of humor which marked her previous memoirs, the Justice has written an account of the daily workings of the Supreme Court in the 21st Century, and how those changes reflect the changes of our constantly changing nation. The Court is really kind of a mirror of whom we are, and if we don’t like what we see, then we have to make the changes ourselves.

History buffs will enjoy all of the minutiae in the book, as well as some funny stories about the Justices themselves; both living and deceased. Some were liked by their colleagues, some were loathed. The important thing being portrayed here is that the Justices are just people, entrusted with the care of the Law in our nation, and as outlined in the Constitution they are sworn to uphold.

Exploring the appointments of the various Presidents lends a unique insight into history. There have been only 3 Presidents who never made an appointment to the Court. There have also been issues which the Court has come head to head with the Executive branch in their attempt to interpret the meaning of the law under our Constitution.

Sometimes they have gotten it wrong, as in Plessy v Ferguson, the so-called “separate but equal” ruling in the late 19th Century. That mistake stood for 50 years, or more, but the point is that it was corrected. We live in an elastic nation, and Justice O’Connor has written a book that does our Court system, and the people who have set on the bench, a great service in making them appear more “human” than they have been portrayed before. This was a very quick and enjoyable read.

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