Our Nine Tribunes: The Supreme Court in Modern America

Our Nine Tribunes: The Supreme Court in Modern America

Our Nine Tribunes: The Supreme Court in Modern America

Our Nine Tribunes: The Supreme Court in Modern America

Synopsis

Lusky examines the role of the Supreme Court in today's society. His book serves as a reminder that the Supreme Court's constitutional rulings, which have led us toward an open and self-governing society, have won popular acceptance because they are thought to be based on legal principle rather than the personal preferences of the Justices. In recent years, the Court has announced many new constitutional rules without recognizing the importance of showing that it still considers itself the servant of the law. According to Lusky, unless the Court takes more care to demonstrate the principled basis of its constitutional decisions, it may lose its vital ability to defuse conflicts within society.

Excerpt

The unpredictability of Supreme Court decisions on constitutional issues generates hope that any new commentary will offer a key to prediction. The hope, in turn, becomes expectation, and when the expectation is disappointed (as I think it must be, given the Court's present doctrine and personnel), blame falls on the book.

Killing the bearer of bad tidings is a very old practice. Even bad tidings, however, have their uses. Therefore, though I can do no more than appraise the legitimacy of what the Court has been doing—without prophesying its future performance—I believe that such appraisal may eventually help improve both performance and predictability. In the end, I am convinced that the safety, health, and general welfare of Americans depend less directly on predictable decisions in particular cases than on our success in restoring the presently shaky legitimacy of judicial review.

I do not offer a workbook. The greater part of scholarly legal writing, from the full-blown treatise to the most modest law review article or note, is primarily designed to facilitate the work of the practicing lawyer. I include in this category writings designed for law school use, since the same general type of material serves for training embryonic lawyers as for easing the task of practitioners. Such writings undertake to render some set of existing rules more intelligible, so that they can be more readily learned by the student or invoked by the litigator, negotiator, or counselor. To that end, such writing is more or less exhaustively documented by the citation and quotation of statutes and judicial opinions, which bring the outside world into the classroom or provide practitioners with the guidance of past experience. After half a century devoted to learning, teaching, and practicing . . .

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