Supreme Reading (Court, that is.)

With the passing of Antonin Scalia, President Obama has announced his third nomination of a Supreme Court justice since entering office, Merrick Garland (his previous nominees were current justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor). The Supreme Court might be one of the most mysterious and least understood branches of the federal government, but it’s also one of the most important legal bodies, so now’s as good a time as any to brush up on your SCOTUS prowess.

  1. Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution by Laurence Tribe

In this study of the current Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts, Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz show the surprising extent to which the Supreme Court is revising the meaning of our Constitution. Digging deeply into court rulings and drawing on the human stories of its nine members, the authors explore the differences in political principles, philosophical perspectives, and personalities, with various justices brought to the fore on particular decisions.

2. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon

A playful but intimately researched biography of the Jewish octogenarian justice who has recently enjoyed an odd surge of fame on the internet in part due to her unassuming nature coupled with her famously searing dissents on court decisions. This original hybrid of reported narrative, annotated dissents, rare archival photos and documents, and illustrations tells a never-before-told story of an exceptional woman, the second ever appointed to the highest court of the United States.

3. A People’s History of the Supreme Court by Peter Irons

Peter Irons’ highly accessible and easily readable history tracks the evolution of the Supreme Court through some of its most famous and influential decisions, from the earliest cases shaping the future of the court to its role in the 2000 election. A comprehensive overview of the court that introduces the reader to the excitement and drama behind the judicial branch.

4. The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Constitution by Barry Friedman

The Supreme Court, not subject to election and serving for life, with seeming unaccountability for their decisions, are often viewed as undemocratic. In this book Friedman argues that the Supreme Court is in fact influenced in its decisions by public opinion, though often only slowly. He tracks the influence of public opinion on court decisions from the Declaration of Independence to the end of the Rehnquist Court in 2005.

5. Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution by John Paul Stevens

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens lays out his case for constitutional amendment — specifically, constitutional amendments — that he believes would improve the United States Constitution. One amendment would allow Congress to force state participation in gun checks, while a second would change the Second Amendment to permit gun control. He would also limit campaign expenditures (reversing the Citizens United ruling) and end the death penalty.

6. The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution edited by Richard Beeman

Sometimes it’s best to go back to basics and read for yourself the stuff everyone’s debating about. This little book contains the two documents necessary to get a crash course in American government as it was written in the 18th century.

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