The Conscience of the Court: Selected Opinions of Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. on Freedom and Equality

The Conscience of the Court: Selected Opinions of Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. on Freedom and Equality

The Conscience of the Court: Selected Opinions of Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. on Freedom and Equality

The Conscience of the Court: Selected Opinions of Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. on Freedom and Equality

Synopsis

For more than three decades, Justice William J. Brennan Jr. served on the Supreme Court of the United States and helped the Court respond to almost every major political and social issue of our time. This book, by presenting Justice Brennan's decisions on many of these issues, illustrates his role as "the conscience of the Court". Through his opinions, with their clarity of analysis and compelling manner of expression, Justice Brennan left the American public a legacy of legal scholarship that continues to demonstrate his unfailing belief in the essential dignity of humankind.

Excerpt

The words of modern political figures, even when available on audio or video tape, are remembered mostly in little snippets or sound bites. Think of the instruction in President Kennedy's inaugural address to "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," or consider the familiar invocation from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

The opinions of the Justices of the United States Supreme Court are far less well known. Nevertheless, they are well preserved. in addition to reciting their opinions from the bench, the Justices publish the entire text of each opinion in three different series of books--books that are readily available throughout the country, both in print and through computerized research services accessible to anyone with a computer, a telephone, and a modem.

Still, the public seldom reads the text of Supreme Court opinions. Instead, most nonlawyers assume that they lack the expertise necessary to understand the language of the law. Reading the opinions, then, becomes a task--and a delight--normally reserved to those with a formal legal education. the public's knowledge is generally limited to the results of selected--and usually controversial--cases, as reported by an often less than fully informed news media. Rarely is the public informed of the Justices' analyses, let alone their eloquence and persuasiveness. in short, the work and wit of the Justices is well preserved for posterity, but posterity shows little interest.

Yet judicial opinions need not be a proprietary enclave of the intellectual elite. Indeed, they are written for the public. Once stripped of their internal citations and cross-references, the judicial reasoning and rationale can readily be understood by anyone.

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